US President Donald Trump went after top government scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci in a call with campaign staffers on Monday, suggesting he was an "idiot", AFP reported.
"People are tired of COVID," Trump was quoted as having told his campaign team in a call on which several members of the press were present.
"People are saying, 'Whatever -- just leave us alone.' They're tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots," the President added.
"He's been here for, like, 500 years," Trump complained of the 79-year-old Fauci.
"Fauci, if we listened to him, we'd have 700,000 (or) 800,000 deaths," Trump claimed on the call, before saying that it would be counterproductive to fire him before the presidential election November 3.
While Fauci is a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, he and Trump have not seen eye to eye on several issues related to the federal response to the pandemic.
Trump's remarks came a week after Fauci expressed displeasure at the use of a clip of him in a Trump campaign video about the coronavirus.
The ad discusses Trump’s effort to recover from the coronavirus personally, as well as his administration’s work to address the pandemic. The 30-second spot uses older remarks from Fauci in a way that suggests he was praising the president.
“I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more,” the ad shows Fauci saying.
Those remarks are from a March interview, where Fauci was discussing the broader effort, including by the White House coronavirus task force.
"In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate," Fauci hit back, saying his statements in the video were taken out of context.
At various points during the pandemic response, Fauci has clarified or corrected Trump's public comments on the development of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.