Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, who said he speaks regularly with top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci, told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview that the sidelining and contradiction of Fauci by U.S. “leadership” has damaged the nation’s response to the coronavirus and may prolong the outbreak.
“Some days he's allowed to tell the truth; some days he doesn't get contradicted by his leadership,” Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and a top backer of global public health initiatives, said on Tuesday.
The uneasy relationship between President Donald Trump and Fauci spilled into public view again this week, when Trump on Tuesday wondered why Fauci has a high approval rating, “but nobody likes me.”
On Monday, Trump shared versions of a viral coronavirus video that made false statements about the disease, including the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment; two days later, Fauci told MSNBC the video “isn’t true.”
Asked what he would do if he was president, Gates first mentioned a change in posture toward Fauci and other health experts.
“Trying to denigrate Dr. Fauci probably isn't the best approach,” Gates says. “You want the experts to get the air time. Let them talk about what drug trials have worked [and] which ones haven't — don't mislead people on those things.”
“This is a communications exercise,” Gates adds. “So far, the U.S. doesn't get a very high grade.”
The failure of communication could have significant consequences, Gates said.
“That could mean that seeking out therapies or willingness to use the vaccine will make this disease last longer,” he says.
Public disagreement between Trump and Fauci goes back at least to the early weeks of the pandemic, when in March Fauci criticized Trump in an interview with Science Magazine. Soon after, Fauci did not appear in his usual role at the daily White House coronavirus briefing. The following month, Trump retweeted a post with the hashtag #FireFauci.
“I give Dr. Fauci a lot of credit — he just rolls with the punches,” Gates says.
Along with his wife Melinda, Bill Gates has donated more than $350 million to the fight against the pandemic through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He said he speaks with Fauci about the funding of vaccines in coordination with the National Institutes of Health, or NIH.
The U.S. government and the Gates Foundation are the two largest funders of coronavirus interventions, Gates said.
“Dr. Fauci and I talk on a regular basis about the U.S. innovation pipeline and how our foundation and NIH are funding both the first wave of vaccines and then a second wave of vaccines.”
Gates, who serves as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, made the remarks in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
Until 2000, Gates led personal computing giant Microsoft. That year, he and his wife co-founded their foundation, which now employs nearly 1,500 people and boasts an endowment of $46.8 billion.
A debunked conspiracy theory about Gates claims he is seeking to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine in order to plant tracking devices in billions of recipients. Nearly half of Republicans believe the theory to be true, according to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll conducted in May.
“The two most-attacked people in this phase have been myself and Dr. Fauci,” he says. “And Dr. Fauci is just telling us the truth.”