Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said Monday evening he was extremely worried by former President Donald Trump’s dangerous April suggestion that ingesting disinfectant could possibly be used to treat Covid-19.
“I just said, ‘Oh my goodness gracious.’ I could just see what’s going to happen,” Fauci told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “Out Front” of Trump’s suggestion.
“You’re going to have people who hear that from the President and they’re going to start doing dangerous and foolish things, which is the reason why, immediately, those of us who were not there said, ‘This is something you should not do.’ Be very explicit. The (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) came out, I think, the next day and put in one of their publications, ‘Do not do this.'”
At an April White House news conference, Trump had mused about whether disinfectants could be used to treat the virus in humans — asking whether there is “a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning.”
He later falsely claimed he was being sarcastic and that he was prompting officials to look into the effect of disinfectant on hands — not through ingestion or injection. But the comments prompted cleaning product companies and state health officials to issue warnings about the dangers of their ingestion.
And Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said at the time that his state fielded hundreds of calls from people across Maryland asking whether injecting or ingesting disinfectants was an effective way to combat coronavirus.
Fauci recalled Monday evening that Trump had been getting a mix of “good information and bad information” on the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, the concept of anecdotal as opposed to science-driven information seemed to prevail,” he said. “I took no great pleasure out of contradicting the President, but I had to get out just to maintain my own integrity, but also to stand up for science that the data did not show what they were claiming.”
As a result of his willingness to openly refute Trump, Fauci has faced numerous threats to his personal safety — something he says has given him a look at “the depth of the divisiveness” in the US.
This includes “somebody sending me an envelope with powder that explodes in my face to scare me and my family,” Fauci said Monday. And while the substance turned out to be a harmless powder, Fauci explained, “My children were very, very distraught by that.”
“And that’s more painful to me than somebody — some jerk — threatening my life,” he said.
The US Capitol insurrection earlier this month, Fauci assessed, was that same divisiveness “in its ultimate.”
“It’s purely a reflection of divisiveness that is so deep that it’s disturbing. And to me as a person who, you know, I don’t want to seem melodramatic, who loves our country, I just see that as being nothing but destructive and it’s very scary,” he said.
Fauci’s comments Monday evening build on his openness in recent days to talk about his rocky relationship with the last administration.
At the White House last week, he touted President Joe Biden’s approach to the pandemic, explaining: “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is — let the science speak. It is somewhat of a liberating feeling.”
This story has been updated with additional information Monday.