PRESCOTT, Ariz. — President Trump continued his free-wheeling campaign tour in Arizona on Monday, where he took aim at his opponent Joe Biden, the media, and members of his own administration in turn.
Continuing his argument that people are tired of hearing about the coronavirus pandemic, the president first claimed that media organizations are attempting to scare people out of voting by continuing to play up the disease.
“They're trying to talk everybody out of voting,” Trump said of news outlets. “People aren't buying it, CNN, you dumb b*******."
Back on the trail after battling COVID-19, Trump was facing intense pressure to turn around his campaign, hoping for the type of last-minute surge that revived his candidacy four years ago and plunging into an aggressive travel schedule despite the pandemic. But his lack of a consistent message combined with newly surging virus cases could undermine his final efforts to appeal to voters outside his most loyal base.
Trump insisted to supporters that he believes he will still win another term, though allowing that he didn’t have that same sense of confidence two weeks ago when he was hospitalized for treatment for the virus. Seeking to shore up the morale of his staff, Trump blasted his government’s own scientific experts as too negative, even as his handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 220,000 Americans remains a central issue to voters.
Two people specifically received the brunt of the president’s ire: Trump’s opponent, Joe Biden, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
"Biden wants to lock you down, he wants to listen to Dr. Fauci," Trump said of his opponent, prompting boos and yells of "lock him up!" from the audience.
Biden took to Twitter to address Trump’s claim, confirming that he “wants to listen to Dr. Fauci” with a simple “yes.”
“We let him do what he wants to do. He gets a lot of television. He loves being on television and we let him do it,” Trump told reporters of Fauci ahead of his rally. “Sometimes he says things that are a little bit off ... He’s a nice guy, I like him, but he has called a lot of bad calls."
The president took direct aim at Dr. Fauci during his rally in Arizona for the third time that day.
Despite saying Dr. Fauci is a “nice man,” Trump excoriated Fauci for advising him against closing the border to travel from China earlier this year.
Trump has made no secret of his growing impatience with Fauci.
Trump’s stop in Arizona came hours after a call with campaign staffers on Monday, where the president ripped Dr. Anthony Fauci and said voters are tired of hearing about the coronavirus, according to multiple reporters who heard the call.
He also proclaimed his confidence in the upcoming election.
“We’re going to win,” Trump said during the call. “I wouldn’t have told you that maybe two or three weeks ago.”
Addressing stories about declining morale at his campaign, Trump said he’s never been more confident in his chances, “Today is the best single day that I’ve felt on either campaign," adding, "we have never been in as strong a position as we are today.”
On the same call, Trump called Fauci a “disaster” but said he’d create bigger issues for himself if he fired the doctor.
Trump has repeatedly tried to discredit Fauci on Twitter and at his rallies. The president often brings up that Fauci had initially discouraged the public from wearing masks, which he did in part to prevent a rush to buy medical-grade masks that would have created a shortage for health care workers, to later recommending masks after the problem of asymptomatic transmission came into focus.
Fauci attempted to explain the about-face in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday.
“It became clear that cloth coverings – and not necessarily a surgical mask or an N95 – cloth coverings work,” he said. “So now there's no longer a shortage of masks. No. 2, meta-analysis studies show that, contrary to what we thought, masks really do work in preventing infection.
“When you find out you're wrong, it's a manifestation of your honesty to say, ‘Hey, I was wrong. I did subsequent experiments and now it's this way.’”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.