Top doctor says Trump used comments 'out of context' to praise pandemic handling

The top US infectious disease expert has said a clip of him appearing to praise the White House’s response to the coronavirus crisis were ‘taken out of context’.

With the pandemic dominating the national debate in the run-up to the election, Donald Trump’s campaign team released an ad featuring Dr Anthony Fauci apparently backing the president’s leadership.

In it, Dr Fauci says he ‘can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more’. He insisted he was talking broadly about public health officials’ response to the pandemic, adding: ‘In my five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed political candidates.’

Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communications director, defended the ad, saying ‘these are Dr Fauci’s own words’ and claiming they were praising the administration’s response.

The 30-second campaign advert features a narrator declaring: ‘President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America.’

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It goes on to announce that Mr Trump ‘tackled the virus head on, as leaders should’, before cutting to a clip of Dr Fauci saying: ‘I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.’

The original footage used in the ad comes from an interview the expert did with Fox News back in March.

Dr Fauci said in a statement on Sunday: ‘The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP [Republican Party] campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials.’

The dispute comes as Mr Trump prepares to return to the campaign trail despite unanswered questions about his health.

Mr Trump says he is now ‘immune’ from Covid-19, a claim that is impossible to prove and only adds to the unknowns about his condition.

On Sunday, the president said he had ‘total and complete sign off from White House Doctors’ to fully resume campaigning, insisting he can no longer spread the disease to others and is impervious to getting sick again.

Twitter later flagged his tweet with a fact-check warning.

He told the crowd: ‘I’m feeling great’, before declaring that the pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans, is ‘disappearing’ – despite a surge in infections in several states.

Officials organised the event yards from the Rose Garden, where two weeks ago the president held another large gathering to formally announce his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

That get-together is being eyed as a possible Covid-19 superspreader event as more than two dozen people in attendance have since contracted the virus.

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