The absence of a respected medical professional who has become a media star during the coronavirus crisis (due to his straightforwardness and ability to correct the record) was noticeably absent on Monday during a White House press briefing — and Americans, perhaps rightly so, freaked out.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become a fixture at such press briefings.
But because he has corrected Trump’s false statements on many occasions — and because, in interviews with print journals such as Science where he openly acknowledged the president’s shortcomings — the doctor has reportedly irked Trump for being so forthcoming.
"Where's Fauci?" is quickly becoming one of the most-asked questions of 2020.
— Jill Colvin (@colvinj) March 23, 2020
It was revealed over the weekend, for instance, that Fauci understood the president’s words weren’t always accurate. “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” Fauci explained when it comes to correcting Trump every time he makes a misleading statement.
When reports of that statement made the rounds — and when Fauci didn’t show up to the Monday presser after a social media meme of him giving a “facepalm” to Trump’s commentary became viral — some worried he was on the path that so many in the Trump administration have taken so far, toward being removed from his position.
Somewhere in Washington, Dr. Fauci just put his head in hands as the President repeated for the fortieth time that he’s excited about malaria medication. pic.twitter.com/8Hw9n2WhIV
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) March 22, 2020
“Do you know what’s more dangerous than COVID? Telling the truth about Trump as a member of the executive branch,” CNN host Chris Cuomo said on his program Monday evening.
Fears of his departure (including the loss of exceptional truth-telling during those press briefings) were somewhat alleviated on Tuesday morning, when Trump tweeted out praise for Fauci on social media.
But the fact that the president has been grumbling about him still has many worried, as well as questioning: is it only a matter of time before the good doctor is given the boot?
Where's Dr. Fauci?
Well, it was fun while it lasted. Sorry, Dr. Fauci! If you don't agree with Dear Leader 110% of the time and genuflect in every press conference, you will find yourself *gone*. https://t.co/c3ukXPJTEH
— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) March 23, 2020
Fauci’s reputation as a medical expert (he’s served in his current role since Reagan was president) may help keep him in place for now. Trump likely views him as an expert Americans trust, and thus good to keep around — a net benefit, even if he is an occasional annoyance to him.
Yet, as we’ve seen in the past, those who are critical of the president within his own administration don’t seem to last long. Fauci may be the exception, given the crisis we’re currently facing — but he may also be shown the door, if he goes too far.
Chris Walker is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, who focuses on news, politics, and analysis of world events. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, since 2005 Chris has reported on workers’ rights protests in Wisconsin, opined on four separate presidential elections and written on a number of other political subjects for a variety of national online publications.