US President Donald Trump has badmouthed his coronavirus adviser Dr Anthony Fauci, describing him as a “disaster” and saying people are sick of the pandemic as infections in the country spike again.
In a campaign call, the President claimed more than 500,000 people would be dead if Dr Fauci was in charge and referred to other health officials as “idiots”.
A sometimes foul-mouthed Mr Trump said people had had enough of medical advisers.
“People are tired of COVID. I have these huge rallies,” he said.
“People are saying ‘whatever, just leave us alone’. They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”
He added “Fauci is a nice guy” who had been around “for 500 years”.
Mr Trump’s comments come as US cases surpassed eight million, with record spikes in several states and more than 215,000 deaths.
Coronavirus cases are rising in states across the midwest, with new infections and hospitalisations surging to record levels.
Meanwhile worldwide virus cases reached the grim milestone of 40 million as the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere fuelled a resurgence in the spread of the disease.
The US, India, and Brazil remain the worst affected-countries, with North, Central, and South America representing nearly half of global cases.
Many countries in Europe are reporting record daily increases, including Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Poland, Ukraine, Cyprus, and the Czech Republic. Infections are growing by more than 150,000 a day on the continent.
Dr Fauci has been the face of the US government’s health response to the pandemic, but has sometimes been at odds with the President.
Mr Trump’s criticism came as Dr Fauci was honoured with a presidential citation and raised concerns about an anti-science trend in America.
Accepting the National Academy of Medicine’s first Presidential Citation for Exemplary Leadership, Dr Fauci said: “We have a lot of challenges ahead of us and I can’t help thinking that we’re really going through a time that’s disturbingly anti-science in certain segments of our society.”
He said the US might have been one of the worst-hit countries in the world because it had not undergone an extensive shutdown.
“We did not shut down nearly as much as our colleagues in Italy and Spain,” Dr Fauci said.
“Although we say we did shut down, we did not shut down as strictly and stringently as countries in the European Union, as well as those in Asia.”
Meanwhile, early voting has begun in the US with a record 27.7 million Americans already casting ballots by mail or in person ahead of the November 3 election.
Mr Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are courting early voters in the competitive states of Nevada and North Carolina, as the final presidential debate looms later this week.
Mr Biden criticised Mr Trump for saying at the weekend the US had “turned the corner” in the pandemic, noting the rate of new cases across the country has risen to the highest level in months.
“As my grandfather would say, ‘This guy’s gone around the bend if he thinks we’ve turned the corner,'” Mr Biden said.
“Things are getting worse and he continues to lie to us about circumstances.”
Mr Trump will campaign every day leading up to Thursday’s debate in Florida, including stops in Arizona and North Carolina, campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.
While the President lags in national opinion polls and in many battleground states, Mr Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said the figures were misleading because must-win states were close.
US presidential elections are determined by electoral votes, allotted to states and territories based largely on population, rather than by a tally of the popular vote.