President Trump attacked Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, as “a disaster” on Monday and said, despite experts’ warnings that the nation was headed toward another peak in the coronavirus outbreak, that people were “tired” of hearing about the virus and wanted to be left alone.
He made the remarks during a call with campaign staff that reporters listened in on. Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, began the call by talking about the Republican ground game and other factors that he said supported Mr. Trump’s path to victory.
But Mr. Trump had other things on his mind. “People are tired of Covid,” he complained. “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying, ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it.”
He added, “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong.”
Mr. Trump also called Dr. Fauci a “nice” guy, but he said, “He’s been here for 500 years,” and added, “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. This guy’s a disaster.”
The attack on Dr. Fauci comes after advisers have tried to get him to lay off the infectious diseases specialist, who remains popular. They also come after Dr. Fauci, in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, dismissed the president’s claim that the end of the pandemic was just around the corner.
Dr. Fauci said during the interview that he was not surprised that Mr. Trump had contracted the coronavirus, citing the failure to take basic precautions at White House events, including the announcement of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Dr. Fauci said. “When I saw that on TV, I said, ‘Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that’s got to be a problem.’ And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event.”
The United States has seen more coronavirus cases — over 8 million — and more deaths — nearly 220,000 — than any other nation in the world.
Still, Mr. Trump has often questioned Dr. Fauci’s pronouncements and recommendations on the coronavirus, and frequently dismisses basic health advice, including that people wear masks.
Earlier this month, a Trump ad used a quote from Dr. Fauci to make it appear that he was praising the president’s response to the virus; Dr. Fauci responded that the ad had taken his words out of context, and that he had actually been praising the White House’s coronavirus task force. He called the ad a form of harassment.
Mr. Trump has also bristled at Dr. Fauci’s superior approval ratings. A poll released late last month by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 68 percent of Americans trusted Dr. Fauci either a great deal or a fair amount to provide reliable information about the virus, while only 40 percent trusted Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump spent about half of his time on the call tearing apart a New York Times article about his frustration with some aides and about concern among aides over the president’s standing in the presidential race. He called the article “sick” and “fake.”
He maintained that he felt better about the 2020 race than he did the 2016 campaign that he won.
As Mr. Trump left the call, Mr. Stepien said that the campaign was seeing “momentum” at the right time. He had mentioned Michigan — where Mr. Trump has steadily trailed Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the polls by substantial margins — as a state where the race was closer than it appeared.
On a separate call with reporters, Mr. Stepien said, “we feel better about our pathway to victory right now,” than at any other point this year.