Fact Check: Did Dr. Fauci Say No Masks Like Trump is Claiming?

President Donald Trump on Monday suggested that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, previously claimed that Americans don't need to wear masks amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Claim

"Dr.Tony Fauci says we don't allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody else since the late, great, Bob Hope," Trump wrote in a tweet on Monday. "All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions. He said "no masks & let China in". Also, Bad arm!"

Dr.Tony Fauci says we don’t allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope. All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions. He said “no masks & let China in”. Also, Bad arm!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2020

As of 3 p.m. ET on Monday, Trump's tweet had more than 10,000 retweets and more than 40,000 likes.

During the first presidential debate on September 29, Trump made a similar claim when he suggested health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not always encourage the use of masks.

"Dr. Fauci said the opposite, he very strongly said masks aren't good and then he changed his mind, he said masks are good," Trump said.

The Facts

Fauci first spoke about the wearing of masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic during a March interview with 60 Minutes.

"Right now, in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks," Fauci said during the interview. "There's no reason to be walking around with a mask."

He continued, "When you're in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it's not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is."

U.S. President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump is flanked by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases while speaking about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15, 2020 in Washington, DC Drew Angerer/Getty

While Fauci suggested that Americans didn't need to wear masks to protect themselves from COVID-19, his comments came before the CDC updated its guidance on facial coverings, and on April 3, they recommended that masks be worn "in public settings when around people outside their household, especially when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain."

In the months following Fauci's March comments and the CDC's updated mask guidance, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has since changed his views on mask wearing.

During a July interview with the Washington Post, Fauci said, "Back then, the critical issue was to save the masks for the people who really needed them because it was felt that there was a shortage of masks."

"What happened as the weeks and months came by, two things became clear: one, that there wasn't a shortage of masks, we had plenty of masks and coverings that you could put on that's plain cloth...so that took care of that problem," Fauci said. "Secondly, we fully realized that there are a lot of people who are asymptomatic who are spreading infection. So it became clear that we absolutely should be wearing masks consistently."

During a September interview with ABC News' "Starts Here" podcast, Fauci made similar comments about masks, suggesting that public health officials didn't recommend mask wearing because there was a shortage of personal protective equipment for health care professionals.

"So the feeling was that people who were wanting to have masks in the community, namely just people out in the street, might be hoarding masks and making the shortage of masks even greater. In that context, we said that we did not recommend masks," Fauci said.

"At that point, which is now months and months ago, I have been on the airways, on the radio, on TV, begging people to wear masks. And I keep talking in the context of wear a mask, keep physical distance, avoid crowds, wash your hands and do things more outdoors versus indoors."

The Ruling

Mostly True.

While Fauci did suggest that not all Americans needed masks early in the pandemic, he did change his stance shortly after and has continued to encourage the use of them.

Newsweek reached out to Fauci for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.