A leading expert assisting Donald Trump’s administration in its response to the coronavirus pandemic appeared to face palm during an extraordinary press briefing at the White House as the president lambasted “the Deep State Department”.
Video of the moment showed Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, seemingly reacting to Mr Trump’s bizarre rant in real-time, standing just behind the president as he spoke about his administration’s latest efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
The doctor can be seen watching Mr Trump with his arms crossed as the president began attacking the State Department right in front of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who he nominated to serve as the head of the department after ousting Rex Tillerson from the post.
“One thing, Secretary of State Pompeo is extremely busy, so if you have any question for him right now, could you do that?" the president said. "I'd like him to go back to the State Department, or as they call it, 'the Deep State Department'."
As he spoke, Dr Fauci uncrossed his arms and lowered his head into his palm, before looking down and rubbing his forehead in apparent shock at the president’s statement. Some reports suggested the leading expert even chuckled while covering his face, before seemingly regaining his composure.
Dr Fauci has become a regular presence for Americans during the pandemic, joining the president and the nation’s top doctors during press briefings and often providing measured statements about the work being done to slow transmissions and combat the novel virus across the country.
The president has meanwhile delivered an array of mixed messaging surrounding the pandemic, at first claiming it was a “hoax” the Democratic Party was using to attack him, before eventually acknowledging the pandemic was real but claiming his administration had “total control” over the outbreak.
Twitter users quickly noted Dr Fauci’s body language during the press briefing on Friday, sharing screenshots of the moment and adding jokes like: “Does a face palm count as touching your face?”
The president has long derided the State Department and often claimed there are “bad people” who work within the federal agency as part of a “deep state”.
But Dr Fauci has sought to provide informational instructions to viewers of the administration’s press briefings, in which updates about the coronavirus have usually driven the news cycle.
On Friday, he once again avoided becoming a part of the president’s politically-charged statements and instead focused on the issue at hand, warning Americans that they would likely have to continue self-isolating for the foreseeable future.
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