WASHINGTON (AFP) - Former US president Donald Trump on Monday (March 29) lashed out at two of the country's leading figures in the coronavirus battle after they criticised his handling of the pandemic.
In an angry statement, Mr Trump described Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Deborah Birx as "two self-promoters trying to reinvent history to cover for their bad instincts and faulty recommendations, which I fortunately almost always overturned".
Mr Trump accused Dr Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, of trying to take credit for vaccine development, and "moving the goalposts to make himself look as good as possible".
The former president added that Dr Birx, who was his coronavirus task force coordinator, was "a proven liar with very little credibility left".
The bitter outburst came after Dr Fauci told CNN how shocked he had been when Mr Trump last April called for states to "liberate" themselves as experts pleaded with Americans to obey shutdown orders.
Dr Birx said in an interview that - while working at the White House - she had received a "very uncomfortable" phone call from Mr Trump after speaking publicly about the rapid spread of Covid-19.
She also said "the federal government did not provide consistent messaging to the American people and that is fault number one". The interviews with Dr Fauci and Dr Birx were part of a CNN documentary on the pandemic.
Dr Birx retired after a bruising time at the White House that tarnished her once stellar reputation.
Dr Fauci, 80, is now the White House's top pandemic adviser under President Joe Biden after Mr Trump's election defeat.
"Dr Fauci and Dr Birx moved far too slowly, and if it were up to them, we'd currently be locked in our basements as our country suffered through a financial depression," Mr Trump said.
He also attacked Dr Fauci's ability to throw a baseball, described him as "king of the flip-flops", and said Dr Birx "was a terrible medical adviser, which is why I seldom followed her advice".
Mr Trump, who makes a habit of strong counter-attacks to any criticism, has kept a relatively low profile since leaving the White House and moving to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Under Mr Trump, the number of Covid-19 deaths in the United States soared to by far the world's highest toll as he resisted face masks, shutdowns and other measures to contain the pandemic.
Mr Biden has quickly ramped up vaccine distribution but also warned that the pandemic, which has killed 549,000 people in the United States, remains a major threat as data shows another potential surge in infections.