President Trump slammed his administration's top infectious disease expert in a call with his campaign team Monday, calling Dr. Anthony Fauci a "disaster." "People are tired of COVID. I have these huge rallies," Trump said. "People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone ... People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots." Trump said he would fire Fauci if it wasn't for the negative press, telling campaign staff that it's a "bomb" every time Fauci appears on TV, but firing him would be a "bigger bomb," Forbes reports. "If there's a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn't care less," Trump said, per CNN.
Trump claimed that there would have been 500,000 COVID deaths if he had listened to Fauci. Later in the call, he upped that to 800,000, CNN reports. "He's been here 500 years," Trump said of Fauci, who has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. The Guardian notes that Trump's campaign used Fauci's words in an ad last week, prompting Fauci to complain that they had taken a "completely out-of-context statement and put it in what is obviously a political campaign ad" without his permission. (On Sunday, Fauci said he wasn't surprised that Trump tested positive for the coronavirus after attending a Rose Garden event where no precautions were taken.)