5 takeaways from Dr. Anthony Fauci's new memoir

Former President Donald Trump thought the coronavirus would “disappear like magic” and berated him for saying it wouldn’t. Former President George H.W. Bush offered him the job as head of the National Institutes of Health, and he turned it down. And former President Barack Obama stopped him from writing a New York Times op-ed about ending the AIDS epidemic because it was “off message.”

Those are just some of the revelations from "On Call: A Doctor's Journey in Public Service," Dr. Anthony Fauci's new memoir that was published on Tuesday.

In it, the nation’s former top infectious disease expert recounts how he helped guide the country through two public health crises: AIDS and COVID-19.

Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (or NIAID), served under seven presidents, including Trump and President Biden. He also served as Biden's chief medical adviser. He stepped down from both positions in 2022.

The 83-year-old also describes his upbringing as a child of Italian immigrants in Brooklyn, taking readers through his six-decade career as a physician and public servant.

But it was his tenure under Trump, with whom he often clashed over the U.S. response to the pandemic, that made Fauci a household name — and a target for right-wing conspiracies.

Here are five takeaways from Fauci’s new memoir.

Trump screamed at Fauci for warning that COVID vaccines were only effective up to one year

Fauci writes that on Jun. 3, 2020, three months into the pandemic, Trump “started screaming at me” for stating that the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines would only last six months to a year.

According to Fauci, Trump was furious that booster shots would likely probably be required after the rollout of the initial vaccines.

“It was quite a phone call,” Fauci recalls in the book. “The president was irate, saying that I could not keep doing this to him. He said he loved me, but the country was in trouble, and I was making it worse.”

“I have a pretty thick skin,” he adds. “But getting yelled at by the president of the United States, no matter how much he tells you that he loves you, is not fun.”

On his last call with Fauci, Trump predicted he would win the 2020 election by a ‘f***ing landslide’

On Nov. 1, 2020, just days before the election, Trump called Fauci from Air Force One to tell him that he was not going to fire him despite pressure among his supporters to do just that.

“Everybody wants me to fire you, but I'm not going to fire you. You have too illustrious a career,” Trump said, according to Fauci. “But you have to be positive. The country cannot stay locked down. You have got to give them hope.

“I like you,” Trump continued, per Fauci’s memoir. “But so many people, not only in the White House, but throughout the country, hate you because of what you are doing.”

On the same call, Trump unloaded on “that f**ker” Joe Biden and predicted he’d beat his 2020 rival in a “f**king landslide.”

“I am going to win this election by a f***ing landslide,” Trump said. “And that f***er Biden. He is so fucking stupid. I am going to kick his f***ing ass in this election.”

Fauci received numerous death threats, including a letter with white powder that shook him

As a result of his public clashes with Trump, Fauci received numerous death threats. In the book, he details one particularly unnerving episode in August 2021 when he opened a letter that contained white powder along with a chilling message.

“MANDATORY LOCKDOWNS,” it read in all capital letters. “REAP WHAT YOU SOW. ENJOY YOUR GIFT.”

Subsequent testing determined that the powder was harmless, but for several hours, Fauci worried that he had been exposed to a deadly toxin.

“I do not fear death,” Fauci writes. “But I was not ready to leave this earth yet. Not by a long shot.”

Fauci turned down George H. W. Bush’s offer to become NIH chief

In 1989, Fauci turned down an offer from then-President George H. W. Bush to become chief of the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s top health agency.

But as Fauci enjoyed working as then-chief of the NIAID's Laboratory of Immunoregulation and did not want a job with immense administrative responsibilities, so he turned it down.

“Mr. President,” Fauci recalled telling Bush in the Oval Office, “I believe that I can serve you and the country better if I remain where I am.”

On his way out, Fauci said that then-White House chief of staff John Sununu smiled and said, “You son of a bitch. Nobody says no to the president.”

Fauci was left frustrated by the ‘realities of Washington’

Fauci worked for a total of seven presidents, from Reagan to Biden and, with the exception of Trump, generally speaks highly of them. But Fauci was often unsettled by what he described as the “frustrating realities of Washington, D.C.,” namely partisan politics getting in the way of public health initiatives.

Under President George W. Bush, Fauci writes that he wanted the administration to make a major push in the fight against tuberculosis and malaria, and made a pitch for Bush to include the effort in his final State of the Union address. (Malaria was mentioned but without a call for funding, Fauci recalls. Tuberculosis wasn’t mentioned at all.)

During the Obama administration, Fauci pushed for a new initiative aimed at creating an “AIDS-free generation” and even pitched writing a New York Times op-ed about the possibility of ending the AIDS pandemic. But an official in the Obama White House noticed Fauci’s draft included a call for funding and demanded he pull back the submission for being “off message.”

Comments on this article