July 28, 2020 / 2:55 PM / 7 days ago

Fauci defends himself, urges masks after Trump deletes video

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert who has led the country through multiple health crises for decades, on Tuesday defended his work to protect Americans’ health after the president retweeted a controversial video later removed by social media companies.

FILE PHOTO: Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 30, 2020. Kevin Dietsch/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

“I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances,” Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” program.

President Donald Trump retweeted a post accusing Fauci and Democrats of suppressing the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat the new coronavirus that included a link to a video of a group discounting the need for face masks amid the pandemic.

A Twitter spokesman confirmed that tweets with the video were in violation of the company’s COVID-19 misinformation policy, and the tweets shared by Trump were deleted.

The video, which racked up more than 14 million views on Facebook before the company removed it, also falsely called the drug a “cure,” CNN reported.

“We’ve removed this video for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19,” said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month revoked its emergency-use authorization for hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, after several studies cast doubt on its effectiveness. Trump has regularly touted the drug and said he has used it himself.

Representatives for the White House could not be immediately reached for comment.

Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and has worked under six U.S. presidents, said he did not follow Trump’s tweets. He urged Americans to continue to heed common sense recommendations to help curb the outbreak in the country, where there are over 4 million cases and 146,766 deaths linked to the disease.

“There are certain fundamental things we should be doing,” he told ABC, including wearing masks, distancing at least six feet from others, avoiding crowds, closing bars in some areas and washing hands. “There’s no question about that.”

Fauci, who has led NIAID at the National Institutes of Health since 1984 and earned high marks in public polls, said he backed the FDA’s decision on hydroxychloroquine.

Trump’s posts would not deter his public health work, he added.

“I will just continue to do my job no matter what comes out because I think it’s very important. We’re in the middle of a crisis.”

Writing by Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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