A top U.S. health official disputed the claims that Trump’s administration blocked him from speaking out about the new coronavirus outbreak.
On Saturday, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, categorically denied about being “muzzled” by any administration, dating back to the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
“Let me clarify. I have never been muzzled — ever,” Fauci told reporters gathered at the White House for President Trump’s news conference meant to provide an update on COVID-19.
Instead, Fauci claimed that there was a misunderstanding.
“We were set up to go on some shows, and when the vice president took over, we said, ‘Let’s regroup and figure out how we’re going to be communicating.’ So I had to just stand down on a couple of shows and resubmit for clearance. And when I resubmitted for clearance, I got cleared,” he said.
The New York Times reported that Fauci met with Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday, who was appointed the day before to lead the administration’s coronavirus response effort, and described the virus as being “very serious,” which contradicted what President Trump said about the threat of the illness being less urgent.
According to the report, Fauci told associates that the White House instructed him not to say anything else without clearance.
President Trump initially responded to a reporter’s question about Fauci and called it a “very dishonest question.”
The news conference took place after Washington state announced the first death of a coronavirus patient on U.S. soil.