Battleground State Doctors Call for TV Stations to Remove Misleading Trump Ad

October 13, 2020 by Dan McCue
Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, and Labor and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., on October 23, 2020. (Graeme Jennings/Pool/Abaca Press/TNS)

This is an installment of an ongoing series of political advertising fact checks during the 2020 campaign. If you would like to submit an advertisement for consideration, please email a link to [email protected].

A television ad the Trump reelection campaign is featuring in key battleground states across the country has inspired the wrath of scores of Michigan physicians who want it pulled from the air due to its misleading use of a quote from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

The 30-second spot, entitled “Carefully,” paints an upbeat and almost inspiring portrait of President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“President Trump tackled the virus head-on as leaders should,” the ad states, as positive affirmations like “Recovering” and “Sparing No Expense” appear over scenes of small businesses opening and smiling families.

In the midst of it all, a clip of Dr. Fauci appears. It is from a March 22 interview he gave on Fox News and in the ad, he appears to be praising Trump’s response to the pandemic.

“”I can’t imagine that … anybody could be doing more,” the doctor says. And in this context, it appears he’s praising the president.

The problem is he wasn’t. He was commenting on the federal government’s overall response, just days after Trump declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency on March 13, 2020.

In fairness, Fox News’s Mark Levin, host of “Life, Liberty & Levin,” was fishing for a compliment for the president, when he asked Fauci, “Have you ever seen this big of a coordinated response by an administration to such a threat? A health threat?”

The problem is, it never developed. Instead, Fauci pivoted to work of the White House Task Force coordinating the nation’s virus response.

“I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the Taskforce. 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,” Fauci said.

“So I can’t imagine 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,” he continued.

“Take a look at what it’s done to China, to Europe, to South Korea. It is serious and our response is aimed, and I know you’ve heard that many, many times, and this is true. I mean, I have dealt with viruses my entire career.”

The White House coronavirus task force has been led by Vice President Mike Pence since late February. The group included medical doctors and scientists from public health agencies in addition to national security officials and political appointees.

In their letter, the 49 physicians say they believe the ad is dangerous, with or without the quote, it is a “dangerous, reckless threat to public health” because it makes it seem like the pandemic is over and appears to encourage noncompliance with measures to prevent the virus’s spread.

It should be noted that the doctors are members of the Committee to Protect Medicare, a health care advocacy organization that launched its own ad campaign this summer to support Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

But Fauci himself has also raised objections.

“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate,” he said in a written statement. “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.”

The Trump campaign remains unbowed.

In a statement to CNN, Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director, said, “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.”

The Well News tried to confirm the veracity of the two other attributed statements in the ad — one purportedly quoting a June 15 report on Memphis news radio station WREG in which the words “saving our seniors” were used and another said to be from The Daily Beast, from April 29, in which the words “life saving drug” were used, both with Trump’s response to the coronavirus as their context.

Despite the use of the Internet Archive, which has screen grabs of those websites for the days in question, those phrases could not be found.

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