WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, whose blunt public health advice has frequently been at odds with President Trump, said on Tuesday that a Trump campaign ad quoted him “completely out of context” by incorrectly implying that he was praising the administration’s coronavirus response.
But in an interview, he said he saw no “rift” between him and the president.
The comments by Dr. Fauci, a career government scientist who has advised six presidents and has run the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, were his sharpest criticism yet of the president, though he carefully framed them as an attack on the campaign, not Mr. Trump.
“That ad clearly implies strongly that I’m endorsing a political candidate, and I have not given them my permission to do that,” Dr. Fauci said, adding that in his five decades of public life, he had never been involved in partisan politics. “And in addition to that, the quote that they took is completely out of context.”
He also warned that the campaign “may turn off a lot of people” by airing an ad to which he is so vocally opposed.
The Trump campaign released the new ad last week, after the president was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following treatment for Covid-19. The ad uses an interview clip to make it seem as though Dr. Fauci is praising the administration’s pandemic response.
Keep up with Election 2020
“President Trump tackled the virus head on, as leaders should,” the ad declares, before switching to a shot of Dr. Fauci saying, “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.”
Dr. Fauci said that comment was made “months and months ago,” in reference to the hard work of the White House coronavirus task force. He declined to say what he actually thought about the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, saying, “I’m not going to go there right now.”
He has said he wanted the ad taken down. The campaign said it would not oblige.
“These are Dr. Fauci’s own words,” Tim Murtaugh, a campaign spokesman, said in an emailed statement. “The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr. Fauci was praising the work of the Trump administration. The words spoken are accurate and directly from Dr. Fauci’s mouth.”
At the outset of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci was often by the president’s side at news conferences, joined by Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator. But the two appear to have been sidelined by Dr. Scott W. Atlas, the president’s new science adviser, a radiologist who has argued that the role of the government is not to stamp out the virus but to protect its most vulnerable citizens as Covid-19 takes its course.
That last idea appears to have taken hold in the White House, where two senior administration officials on Monday embraced a declaration arguing that the authorities should allow the coronavirus to spread naturally among young, healthy people while protecting the vulnerable