Fauci’s memoir reveals clashes with Trump and other private moments

The call from President Donald Trump arrived at 9:30 Sunday morning, Nov. 1, 2020 - two days before Election Day, when voters would decide whether Trump or challenger Joe Biden would occupy the White House.

“Tony, I really like you … but what the f--- are you doing?” Trump told Anthony S. Fauci, according to the physician’s new memoir, “On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service.”

For the next 15 minutes, the president - aboard Air Force One - mused about why Americans hated Fauci, mocked Biden’s campaign as lackluster and vowed he would win reelection in a landslide. “You really need to be positive … you constantly drop bombs on me,” Trump told Fauci.

The president’s anger had been stirred by Fauci’s interview with The Washington Post, in which the government’s leading infectious-disease expert warned that coronavirus cases were surging again and called for the nation to abruptly change its response to save lives.

But the president ignored the most pointed criticism Fauci leveled in his interview with The Post, which was that the Biden campaign was taking covid-19 “seriously from a public health perspective.” Meanwhile, Trump’s packed, maskless rallies were probably sources of viral spread, public health experts warned.

The call became the final conversation between the two native New Yorkers, Fauci writes - a relationship that spanned the first year of the pandemic and became a source of national fascination.

It is just one of the revelations in Fauci’s 455-page memoir, which was published Tuesday.


“On Call” joins at least 16 other memoirs from former Trump and Biden officials that have attempted to explain the government’s response to a pandemic that has killed more than 1 million Americans. Among them: books from former White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, former U.S. surgeon general Jerome Adams, former coronavirus testing coordinator Brett Giroir, and former White House adviser Scott Atlas. (Some of those memoirs have not sold well.)

None of those officials was Fauci - the de facto face of the nation’s coronavirus response, as he acknowledges in his book.

“This was good, in that I could both calm the country’s anxieties and provide factual information,” Fauci writes. “But it also led to the gross misperception, which only grew exponentially over time, that I was in charge of most or even all the federal government’s response to the coronavirus.”

Democrats ended up cheering Fauci for fact-checking the president’s claims - sometimes in real time in White House meetings or briefings, where Trump repeatedly proclaimed that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine could fight covid-19, despite Fauci and other scientists saying there was no evidence to support that. In his memoir, Fauci details other private clashes, such as an Oval Office briefing in August 2020 when he told Trump that the president was wrong to dismiss the value of coronavirus testing. Trump ignored Fauci and “simply moved onto the next topic.”

The episodes soured Republicans on Fauci, and conservative media increasingly portrayed him as Trump’s antagonist and blamed him for the most stringent coronavirus responses, such as social distancing. The scrutiny continues today: A Senate hearing scheduled for Tuesday, co-led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of Fauci’s fiercest critics, is expected to examine whether Fauci’s former agency played a role in funding risky virus research that contributed to the start of the pandemic - a claim Fauci says is baseless.

Most of Fauci’s memoir is devoted to earlier episodes in his career, such as his work combating HIV/AIDS across four decades or the anthrax scares following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He also recounts his interactions with previous presidents, such as an Oval Office meeting on Oct. 30, 1989, when he turned down then-President George H.W. Bush’s offer to lead the National Institutes of Health, the United States’ premier scientific agency. Fauci said he preferred to remain director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a more hands-on role than leading the entire NIH. Fauci wound up holding that role until retiring from government in December 2022.

“You son of a bitch,” then-White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu told Fauci after the meeting. “Nobody says no to the president.”

Those brushes with past leaders - and experience saying no - informed his interactions with the 45th president. Fauci writes that he first met Trump in September 2019 as the president signed an executive order to boost flu vaccine manufacturing - an effort somewhat at odds with Trump’s own beliefs. Trump told Fauci he had never received a flu vaccine until becoming president, because he never needed one.

Fauci was summoned to the White House to help lead the nation’s early coronavirus response in January 2020 - partly because conservative political commentator Lou Dobbs, who had interviewed Fauci over the years, personally praised him to Trump.

Initially, the relationship between the president and the doctor was warm, in part because the two New Yorkers were able to relate to each other, Fauci writes. Even as anger grew over social distancing and other aspects of the government’s response - and conservative media increasingly lampooned Fauci - Trump was the “one person at the White House [who] continued to remain friendly to me,” Fauci writes.

As the pandemic dragged on, Trump increasingly turned on his scientific adviser, saying he was too pessimistic, failing to inspire Americans.

In a June 2020 phone call, Trump screamed at Fauci for saying in a JAMA interview that the durability of coronavirus vaccines was uncertain and shots might be needed annually. The pronouncement - coming on the heels of positive news about vaccine trials - depressed the stock market, Trump asserted, costing the nation “one trillion f---ing dollars.”

“President Trump’s tendency to announce that he loved me and then scream at me on the phone - well, let’s just say that I found this to be out of the ordinary,” Fauci writes in a chapter titled “He loves me, he loves me not.”

Masking was a repeated flash point. Fauci writes that Trump snapped at him before a May 2020 Rose Garden event when Fauci chose to wear a mask, with the president saying it would send “the wrong signal” to Americans watching at home. After Fauci insisted that he would stay masked, Trump ordered other officials such as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to remove their face coverings.

Fauci also describes “strange” and confusing conversations with the president, who sometimes had a distorted view of the doctor’s government role. After Trump tested positive for the coronavirus in October 2020 and received an experimental antibody treatment, he insisted that Fauci should approve the treatment for all Americans. Fauci responded that it was a Food and Drug Administration regulatory issue, and he had no sway.

Fauci’s memoir includes criticism of Trump’s deputies: that Vice President Mike Pence “sometimes overdid” his subservience to Trump; that White House economic adviser Peter Navarro “could not accept reality” about hydroxychloroquine; and that Atlas delivered “exactly what the president wanted to hear” rather than public health advice. He also details episodes when the Trump White House sought to muzzle or attack him by circulating opposition research, although he shares some praise for Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in law and White House senior adviser, writing that Kushner “had good common sense and certainly was not a villain” despite his frequent portrayal in the media.


Fauci is much warmer about Democrats, writing that former president Barack Obama called to personally reassure him as Fauci faced scrutiny over his agency’s funding of experiments involving dogs, and that Biden and his deputies embraced and empowered him. “No opposition research directed at me with this group,” he writes.

The book does not dwell on congressional investigations that continue to ensnare Fauci or address Fauci’s conversations with scientists early in the pandemic as they debated the possible lab origins of the virus. David Morens, a former Fauci deputy being probed by Congress for deleting emails related to the coronavirus, is not mentioned in the book, although Fauci includes him among the dozens of officials he thanks in the acknowledgments.

Fauci details threats on his life, such as when he opened a letter in August 2021 containing white powder and a dire message: “MANDATORY LOCKDOWNS … REAP WHAT YOU SOW. ENJOY YOUR GIFT.” Testing confirmed that the powder was not hazardous, but Fauci and his family spent hours worried he had been exposed to a deadly toxin.

“I do not fear death,” Fauci writes. “But I was not ready to leave this earth yet. Not by a long shot.”