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Trump had Fauci address the media — before showing a campaign-style video and arguing with reporters

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke Monday at a White House press conference.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke Monday at a White House press conference.Alex Wong/Getty

President Trump on Monday used his daily press briefing to play a campaign-style video defending his response to the coronavirus crisis, before angrily lashing out at reporters over their coverage of his administration.

The video spliced together clips from members of the media “minimizing the risk from the start,” before touting his own “decisive action,” complete with clips on Trump speaking about a vaccine, banning travel from Europe, and announcing a national emergency. The video then showed a screen that “partisans” had “sniped and criticized,” and featured a New York Times quote to bolster his claims. The video also featured governors, such as New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Gavin Newson, praising the Trump administration.

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“Everything we did was right,” Trump said, complaining at length about negative press coverage. He said of the video, “I think I’ve educated a lot of people as to the press.”

As Trump aired the video, CNN cut away from their airing of the press conference to provide analysis.

“That was propaganda aired at taxpayer expense in the White House briefing room,” CNN anchor John King said. “And it was selective, cherry-picking information. . . there are ways to do things, and there’s that. That’s just plain-out propaganda.”

When CNN eventually showed the rest of the briefing, the banner on the bottom of the screen read, “Trump uses task force briefing to try and rewrite history on coronavirus response.”

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman also took issue with how her reporting was misused.

When a reporter at the briefing asked who produced the video, Trump said it was “done by a group in the office.”

“So this was produced by government employees, by people here at the White House, this campaign-style video?” a reporter asked.

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘produced,’ all they did was took some clips and just ran them,” Trump said.

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Trump also verbally sparred with reporters, most notably CBS reporter Paula Reid, who asked why Trump didn’t ramp up testing or hospital preparedness earlier.

“You’re so disgraceful,” Trump said, as she asked, “Right now, nearly 20 million people are unemployed, and tens of thousands of Americans are dead. How is this. . . supposed to make people feel confident in an unprecedented crisis?”

“You know you’re a fake, you know that?” Trump told her, as they got into a back-and-forth. “Your whole network’s coverage is fake.”

Trump defended the pace of his response, saying he couldn’t have issued guidelines that would have had dire economic consequences until the virus began spreading rapidly in the US.

“We did the right thing and our timing was very good,” Trump said.

The pandemic has infected more than 680,000 Americans and killed more than 23,500 in the US.

Trump also invited Dr. Anthony Fauci to kick off the briefing, during which Fauci defended the president’s response to the pandemic — a day after the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director said in a Sunday TV interview that there was “pushback about shutting things down.”

During Sunday’s appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Fauci had said: “You could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated. . . Obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down.”

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After Fauci’s comments, Trump retweeted a Twitter post Sunday night that included the phrase, “Time to #FireFauci.”

On Monday, Fauci said the comments he made a day earlier were in response to a “hypothetical question” — “and hypothetical questions sometimes can get you into some difficulties.”

Fauci also said that he has always said that “mitigation works,” and “if you initiate it earlier, you probably would save more lives. If you initiate it later, you probably would have lost more lives. That was taken as a way that maybe, somehow, something was at fault here.”

He also seemed to commend Trump for listening to recommendations to impose the 15-day social distancing guidelines, and again on extending them for another month. Fauci said when the recommendations were made, “obviously there would be some concern from some that it would have negative consequences.”

However, Fauci said using the term “pushback” on Sunday was “the wrong choice of words.” Fauci also responded to a reporter in the briefing room, saying he was speaking of his own accord: “Everything I do is voluntary. Please. Don’t even imply that.”

Trump later said that Fauci asked if he could speak during the briefing.

Later on in the press conference, Trump said of Fauci, “I like him. Today I walk in, I hear I’m going to fire him. I’m not firing him — I think he’s a wonderful guy.”

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When asked why he retweeted a post with the hashtag #FireFauci, Trump said, “I retweeted somebody. I don’t know. They say fire — it doesn’t matter.” Trump added that he was aware the hashtag was in the post, saying, “I notice everything. . . It’s somebody’s opinion.”

During the briefing, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said he expects that more than 80 million Americans should have their stimulus money directly deposited into the bank accounts by Wednesday.

For those who don’t get their money by Wednesday, Mnuchin said the IRS will have a website available that would allow people to plug in information and allow for their direct deposit to take place quickly.

Wire material from The New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.


Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss