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During an interview Monday night, Dr. Anthony Fauci reflected on his startled reaction when former President Donald Trump mused last April that people might be able to inject disinfectants into their bodies to protect against COVID-19.
"Oh, my goodness gracious," Fauci, 80, thought when Trump, 74, made the infamous suggestion during a White House press conference last spring.
Trump described it then as "almost like a cleaning" and wondered aloud if it might be helpful in treating the novel coronavirus.
Fauci, who shared his thoughts during an interview with CNN, was not present at the April 23 press conference.
After Trump made the remarks — and also talked about the potential effectiveness of blasting people with heat and light — reporters immediately questioned what underlying science was informing his comments.
Federal officials soon walked back Trump's suggestions and he has since claimed he was being "sarcastic" when referring to the disinfectant, despite video from the press conference.
Fauci told CNN this week that he feared what might come next from Trump's remarks, given the loyal support he had among many Americans during his presidency.
"I could just see what's going to happen," Fauci said. "You're going to have people who hear that from the president and they're going to start doing dangerous and foolish things."
Since Trump left office last week, Fauci has spoken out in a number of interviews about what it was like working for a president who consistently disputed scientific information about the coronavirus.
Notably, Trump undercut his own federal health officials' recommendations about what safety measures Americans should take and openly criticized Fauci on social media, putting the president at odds with the country's leading infectious disease expert.
Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock President Donald Trump looks on as Dr. Anthony Fauci addresses the media during a coronavirus task force briefing on April 10, 2020.
Fauci told The New York Times this week that he had received death threats while working with the Trump White House, leading him to get his own Secret Service detail. He also recounted one "frightening" moment when he opened a letter and white powder — potentially indicative of anthrax — had clouded out onto his body.
"It had to be one of three things: a hoax or anthrax, which meant I'd have to go on Cipro for a month — or if it was ricin, I was dead, so bye-bye," Fauci recalled to the Times, adding that he looked at the situation "fatalistically."
Trump's response — or lack thereof — to the pandemic continues to be widely criticized, as President Joe Biden's administration has said it will focus on ramping up the federal government's effort to distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the country.
But Fauci — who, including Biden, has now worked under seven presidents as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — said he didn't consider stepping down from his role.
"Even though there was a lot of extraordinary, surrealistic things going on," Fauci told CNN, "I felt if I left, there would not be that honest broker there."
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