Former President Donald Trump awarded Dr. Anthony Fauci for his work on the COVID vaccine just one day before leaving office, potentially adding fuel to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ nascent line of attack about the 45th president’s handling of the pandemic.
DeSantis, who has not announced a White House bid but is still widely considered Trump’s chief competition in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, slammed Trump for his handling of COVID in a new interview with journalist Piers Morgan that aired this week.
During the interview, DeSantis drew a clear contrast with Trump when it came to the pandemic, saying he would’ve “fired” Fauci if he were president at the time.
“Well, I think there’s a few things,” DeSantis said when asked about his differences with Trump. “The approach to COVID was different. I would have fired somebody like Fauci. I think he got way too big for his britches, and I think he did a lot of damage.”
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Trump in January 2021 awarded “presidential commendations” to Fauci, then the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, along with dozens of other individuals, “in recognition of their exceptional efforts on Operation Warp Speed.”
Operation Warp Speed was the Trump administration’s initiative to coordinate with federal and private entities to quickly develop a COVID vaccine.
A record of Trump recognizing Fauci’s work during the pandemic could prove problematic as he kicks his 2024 presidential campaign into high gear.
DeSantis recently called out Fauci, who was a lead member of Trump’s COVID task force before serving as President Biden’s chief medical adviser, for the now-retired public health official’s conduct during the pandemic, demanding he is “held accountable.”
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Fauci infamously changed his position on wearing masks as a protective measure and supported school closures and other lockdown measures. Last August, Fauci said it’s “inexplicable” that some Americans view mandatory mask-wearing as a violation of their liberty.
Trump has also been a vocal critic of Fauci and often contradicted his advice while in the White House.
Fauci, seen in a new PBS documentary wiping a tear away as he watches Biden’s inauguration ceremony, has been critical of both Trump and DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic.
Fox News Digital has reached out to both the Trump campaign and DeSantis’ office for comment.
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