On the night of April 12th, Donald Trump retweeted a post seeming to support the firing of the NIAID director, Anthony Fauci. The tweet followed Fauci’s interview with CNN, where he admitted earlier COVID-19 mitigation ‘‘could have saved lives.’’ Trump’s retweet stimulated speculation of the possible replacement of Fauci on the COVID-19 task force team.
Hogan Gidley, the White House Spokesperson, denied rumours of Fauci’s replacement. ‘‘This media chatter is ridiculous. President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci […] Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted adviser to President Trump,’’ said Gidley. Trump added to the same point in a press briefing, ‘‘Today I walk in; I hear I’m going to fire him. I’m not firing him. I think he is a wonderful guy,’’ the President responded to reporters. In effect ending rumours of Fauci’s firing.
For all purposes, the possibility of replacing Fauci seems non-existent at the time. There is sizeable bipartisan support for the doctor’s pandemic response. The Quinnipiac national survey shows that Fauci has a 78% approval rating with the American public. Removing Fauci as director of the NIAID would only splinter COVID-19 response in America. Fauci has the capability of engaging both the U.S. public and federal government in terms of cooperating on pandemic regulations. As a result, he has become the face of pandemic response in America. As such, removing him as an adviser to the Trump administration would only aggravate an already tense political environment.
In many ways, Fauci has acted as a bridge between governors and the President. During Trump’s prior call to reopen the U.S. economy by Easter, Fauci eased concerns of a possible second wave of infections by relating Trump’s statement to an ‘‘aspirational projection to give people some hope.’’ Rather than what many had interpreted as an announcement of a solid timeline. Overall, Fauci was effectively able to reemphasize the importance of continuing social distancing in congruence with many governors, without undermining Trump. The ability to balance the will of the President against the concerns of states is increasingly important as the federal government divides in regards to COVID-19 response.
It is not often within the Trump administration that an official retains their position without conforming to the President’s prerogative. The tweet that sparked concern over Fauci’s replacement speaks to a presence of resentment against the doctor within Trump’s supporters. The tweet came from a former Republican congressional candidate, DeAnna Lorraine. Lorraine viewed Fauci’s CNN interview as insinuating that the President did not act fast enough in response to COVID-19. This was interpreted as building on criticism against Trump already present in the media. However, this was not the first case of an ‘anti-Fauci’ sentiment. Conspiracy theories on the NIAID director have gained relevance within Trump’s following. Such conspiracy theories include Fauci working with pharmaceutical corporations and elites to increase global vaccination rates. Such conspiracy theories work to weaken Fauci’s credibility in the eyes of the public and speaks to perceptions of Fauci working against the President.
Anthony Fauci’s role in the Trump Administration is incredibly positive in the eyes of the public. In the context of falling opinion polls on Trump’s COVID-19 response, Fauci’s popularity could have come at Trump’s expense. However, Fauci has proven the ability to stay within Trump’s good graces while still appealing to both parties. He is seen by many as a voice of reason that the country as a whole can follow. Thus, Fauci’s position between state officials and the executive office is hugely beneficial to the cohesion of COVID-19 regulations. As long as Fauci remains a mitigating force between the two levels, rather than conforming to one side completely, tension will be apparent. Although, this does not mean that Fauci is working for one side or the other. His continued figurehead role in Coronavirus response and education is crucial to the recovery of the U.S. and should transcend party alignment.