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Dr. Anthony Fauci Defends Trump, Coronavirus Task Force Amid Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Attacks Against Him

The country's top expert on infectious disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, offered a sober defense of President Donald Trump and the Coronavirus Task Force Sunday, amid reports he's the target of far right-wing conspiracy theories and online attacks on his character.

Fauci focused on "the reality, not the rhetoric" while speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper Sunday morning, touting the benefits of "intensive" White House discussions with Trump and the intrinsic goodwill of the task force led by Vice President Mike Pence. He said social distancing guidelines would likely not be lifted for a "matter of weeks," but he stressed the task force is employing a "we'll take it as it comes" attitude of flexibility as they work with the president to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci's downplay of spats between Trump, himself and the task force rebukes dozens of reports claiming strife and a New York Times analysis , which found Fauci himself to be targeted by far right-wing attacks tying him to Hillary Clinton and the "deep state."

He repeatedly stressed that the Coronavirus Task Force, or any task force, requires intensive discussion and compromises -- something he says is working between himself, Trump and the rest of the White House team fighting the pandemic. When asked about how many total U.S. cases and deaths there may be he described it as a "moving target" but added, "Looking at what we are seeing now, I would say between "100,000-200,000" deaths from coronavirus. "We're going to have millions of cases."

CNN's Tapper asked Fauci Sunday about the president's remark last week that if the Michigan and Washington governors "don't treat you right, I don't call." The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease replied: "The reality is, not the rhetoric, is that the people who need things will get what they need, there's the reality and the rhetoric. I know the spirit of the Task Force, and when people need things, it doesn't matter who they are, we try to get them what they need."

"You don't think we're ready to lift guidelines yet?" Tapper pressed, noting Trump's highly optimistic hope of reopening parts of the country before Easter Sunday, two weeks from today.

"We're going to obviously, seriously, discuss and consider that," Fauci said. "My own opinion, looking at the way things are, I doubt if that would be the case but we're a group, we're a task force, we're going to sit down and talk about it ... we'll take it as it comes, we'll look at it, and if we need to push the date forward, we'll push the date forward. It's going to be a matter of weeks, it's not going to be tomorrow and it's certainly not going to be next week."

A New York Times analysis released Saturday dove into malicious attacks against Fauci in right-wing online circles and blogs, which tie him to Trump's so-called "deep state" opposition. The report highlights more than 70 Twitter and social media accounts which promote "#FauciFraud" conspiracy theories and hosts like Bill Mitchell who share them to their millions of conservative followers.

The article notes a photograph of a seemingly distressed Fauci with his hand on his forehead has been widely circulated in posts falsely painting him as a Democratic Party plant. The Times notes that a 7-year-old email he sent praising Hillary Clinton has been retweeted "thousands of times" and the focus of numerous YouTube conspiracy theory videos.

Fauci stressed the need for "rapid' coronavirus tests which get results immediately and prevent people who ultimately test positive -- days later -- to be quarantined from the population on-the-spot in order to prevent further spread.

Tapper again pried into Fauci and Trump's relationship, particularly about the president' quick reversal Saturday on whether he would be quaranting the tri-state area of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. "We [the health experts] made it clear, and he agreed, it would be much better to do what's called a strong advisory," he explained. Addressing squabbles between New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Trump, Fauci summarized: "Bottom line: he's got to have the ventilators. Period."

Fauci leads the NIAID, one of 27 factions of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

dr anthony fauci jake tapper
The country's top expert on infectious disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, offered a sober defense of President Donald Trump and the Coronavirus Task Force Sunday, amid reports he's the target of far right-wing conspiracy theories and online attacks on his character. Screenshot: CNN | Twitter
Dr. Anthony Fauci Defends Trump, Coronavirus Task Force Amid Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Attacks Against Him | U.S.