The ad highlights the president’s bout with covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The deaths of more than 200,000 Americans from the disease have been a huge setback to the president’s election campaign. This ad tries to argue that he took forceful action against the coronavirus, despite his constant efforts to play down the pandemic in public.
After the ad asserts, “President Trump tackled the virus head on as leaders should,” it follows with a clip of Fauci appearing to endorse that claim: “I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more.”
There is a certain irony in the Trump campaign using Fauci as a validation, as the president frequently is quite critical of the infectious-disease expert. (See our fact check of Trump’s three key complaints about Fauci.) But the biggest problem is that Fauci was not talking about Trump at all. In a March interview on Fox News with Mark Levin, Fauci was discussing the workload of the coronavirus task force. Here is the full context for his quote. The section used in the ad is highlighted in bold.
“I have been devoting almost full time on this — almost full time. I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. I’m connected by phone throughout the day and into the night and when I say night, I’m talking twelve, one, two in the morning. I’m not the only one. There’s a whole group of us that are doing that. It’s every single day. So I can’t imagine that that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more. I mean, obviously, we’re fighting a formidable enemy — this virus. This virus is a serious issue here.”
In other words, the ad misleadingly clips Fauci’s comment and takes it out of context, especially because it sets it up with voice-over narration designed to make viewers believe the popular Fauci is praising Trump.
According to The Fact Checker’s Guide to Manipulated Video, this is an example of Missing Context — Isolation. That’s when a brief clip creates a false narrative that does not reflect the event as it occurred. The little snip in the middle of Fauci’s comment indicates that the Trump campaign clearly wanted viewers to believe Fauci was talking about Trump.
But he was not.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But Fauci issued the following statement to CNN: “In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate. The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials.”
Update: After Fauci’s statement was issued and this fact check was published, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh defended the ad: “These are Dr. Fauci’s own words. 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.”
But Murtaugh is wrong. This is yet another misleading clip job by the Trump campaign. Fauci’s words are placed in the ad in a deliberate effort to mislead viewers, and he had every right to complain.
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