Dr. Anthony Fauci told the USA Today editorial board in a livestreamed interview on Wednesday that he had not yet communicated with the transition team of President-elect Joe Biden ― likely because the team understood that he was still squarely in the middle of the twilight days of the Donald Trump administration.
“If Ron Klain ― Biden’s incoming chief of staff who has a lot of experience with public health ― were to call you after this meeting, are you allowed to take his call or have you been told you’re forbidden to speak with the Biden transition folks?” asked the paper’s editorial page editor, Bill Sternberg.
“I have not been formally told that anything is forbidden,” Fauci replied. “But it’s quite obvious that this is a very sensitive period. … I don’t want to get into that. I have tried to the best of my ability to stay out of the political aspects and just focus on my role as a public health person, a physician and a scientist. To be honest with you, I believe that the Biden people, including Ron Klain, understand that and don’t want to put me in a compromised position.”
Fauci added that smooth presidential transitions are vital in American politics, likening them to races with runners passing batons: “You’re all running together. And you pass the baton. That’s what a smooth transition is. It’s very, very much like a relay race.”
The delicate position of Fauci ― who has worked under six presidents, from Ronald Reagan to Trump ― can be seen in Trump’s alternating praise and criticism for him throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The president has switched between calling the infectious disease expert a “wonderful guy,” undermining his COVID-19 safety suggestions, and tossing around the idea that he would fire Fauci “a little bit after” the election.
Dr. Scott Atlas, whom Trump appointed as coronavirus task force adviser in August, has also taken aim at Fauci, calling him a “political animal” who had lost credibility with his constant media appearances, while former White House strategist Steve Bannon insinuated that Fauci needed to be beheaded, with his head stuck on a pike outside the Oval Office.
Fauci has largely kept his head down and avoided making direct condemnations of the negativity in the Trump administration surrounding his COVID-19 efforts. He did acknowledge Bannon’s horrific remarks, calling them “kind of unusual” and “not the kind of thing you think about when you’re going through medical school to become a physician.”
Watch Fauci’s entire conversation with the USA Today Editorial Board below.