When Megyn put out a call for questions ahead of her interview with former President Donald Trump, the overwhelming majority of inquiries that came in had to do with COVID-19. From trusting the advice of Anthony Fauci, MD, to Operation Warp Speed, many of you wondered whether Trump wishes he had done anything differently in response to the pandemic.
During their sit down on Wednesday, Megyn asked the 2024 GOP hopeful that very question. Even with the benefit of hindsight, the forty-fifth president stood by many of his decisions and argued that he deserves more credit for what he accomplished during that time.
Despite his decades in civil service, Dr. Fauci was hardly a household name as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president. That all changed in March 2020. “This is the criticism of you,” Megyn said. “That you made him a star… that you made him the face of the White House Coronavirus taskforce, he was at every presser; that he was riding herd for the administration on COVID; and that you actually gave him a presidential commendation before he left office.”
When Megyn asked the former president if he “would like a do over on that,” Trump said he did not personally sign off on the presidential commendation and believes he pushed back on Dr. Fauci appropriately. “Let me just tell you about Fauci – Fauci was very important in the Biden administration, much less important [in mine],” he said. “I overrode many of the things he did… He didn’t want to stop China. He wanted to let everyone come in from China. I stopped it, I overrode it.”
Trump said that Dr. Fauci being a civil servant did not prevent his firing, but he did have a long body of work to consider. “Look, I’m not one that blames a system, that if you’re civil service or if you have some other protection that you can get fired because I’ve done things that are a lot worse than that,” he said. “With that all being said, he’s been there for years. He was respected. He lost a lot of the respect because of COVID, but he was respected.”
Another area Trump said he and Dr. Fauci disagreed on was lockdowns. “I let the governor’s run their states – many of the governors opened up their states, and some of them didn’t,” Trump shared. While he said Florida “was closed,” he pointed to Gov. Henry McMaster in South Carolina, Gov. Kristi Noem in South Dakota, and Gov. Bill Lee in Tennessee as state officials who avoided lockdowns. “It’s the federal system,” he said. “I allowed the governors to do that.”
Megyn noted that Gov. Ron DeSantis shut Florida down “for a month” at the beginning of the pandemic because he “was under a lot of pressure, especially given the population age of a lot of Florida’s citizens.”
Trump said he wasn’t “trying to blame anybody” for their decisions but believes his 2024 competitor should take ownership. “He should say, ‘Eventually we opened it, but I closed it down,’” he said. “I gave him the right to keep it open if he wanted to. I let the governors make a determination as to whether or not to close down.”
Operation Warp Speed
When it comes to Operation Warp Speed and the rush to develop vaccines to immunize against COVID-19, Megyn asked Trump if he has any regrets. “I’m not gonna deny some of the good the vaccines did,” she said. “But, of course, a lot of people have been vaccine-injured, and that’s one of the questions. Those people are mad that they got rushed through.”
Trump said the vaccines “had an impact” on the “original COVID,” and he mentioned that people on the left actually inquire about why he doesn’t tout Operation Warp Seep more. “Some friends of mine that are Democrats… they say, ‘I don’t understand one thing: Why don’t you talk more about the vaccine. That was one of the greatest things you’ve ever done,’” he claimed. “They said, ‘You saved 100 million people’ because I got it done in nine months as opposed to five years to 12 years.”
While Trump refused to say he was “proud” of the program, he said that he “got something done for that specific thing.” He also emphasized that he never supported vaccine mandates. “Some places had… very strong mandates, largely Democratic governors,” he noted. ”I never gave mandates, and people have to make… their own decision as far as I’m concerned.”
‘I Never Got the Credit’
Rather than play Monday morning quarterback, Trump said he and his administration were dealing with an unprecedented situation. “When this came in, nobody knew what the hell it was… You thought that was from 200 years ago or from 1917,” he said. “I don’t blame a lot of people because nobody knew what it was.”
In the early days of the pandemic, Trump said there was very little information to work off of. “We had a lot of professionals in the Oval Office, and they said, ‘Sir, something bad is happening in the world,’” he shared. “And then they had another meeting the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and, all of a sudden… the first person died in the United States and then another… Nobody really knew what it was.”
With that in mind, Trump believes he did a lot right. “I also got Regeneron and a lot of therapeutics done, which were great,” he said. “I also got the robes, and the leather, and the rubber, and… the ventilators. We did a tremendous job.”
Ultimately, he doesn’t feel like those efforts get the recognition they deserve. “I got a lot of good marks on the economy, I got a lot of good marks on… rebuilding the military, getting rid of ISIS, the biggest tax cuts in history,” he concluded. “I never got, I think, the credit that I deserve on COVID.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Trump by tuning in to episode 627 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.