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Former President Donald Trump said he doesn’t know who gave Dr. Anthony Fauci a presidential commendation.
Trump’s White House website shows it was he who gave Fauci the recognition on his last day in office.
During an interview with former President Donald Trump, journalist Megyn Kelly pressed the former president about his management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why, the former Fox News host asked during her SiriusXM podcast, did Trump make former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci "a star."
"You actually gave him a presidential commendation before he left office," Kelly said. "Wouldn't you like a do-over on that?"
Rather than answer Kelly’s question, Trump claimed ignorance, saying he didn’t know who gave Fauci the commendation.
Kelly reminded Trump, "It's a presidential commendation." Therefore, it’s the president who hands out the recognition.
"I really don’t know who gave him the commendation," Trump replied. "Somebody probably handed him a commendation."
Trump, who has previously touted his "great memory," is right that someone handed Fauci a presidential commendation. It was he who did.
An archived version of Trump’s White House website shows that on Jan. 19, 2021, Trump’s last full day in office, Trump awarded presidential commendations to 52 people, including Fauci. The former president recognized the team from Operation Warp Speed, the program to quickly develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
"Today, President Donald J. Trump awarded Presidential Commendations to the below individuals in recognition of their exceptional efforts on Operation Warp Speed," the statement read.
A review of Nexis news archives and a Google advanced search shows that the commendation got little news coverage as Trump prepared to leave the White House and Biden prepared to be sworn in.
But it has since grabbed the attention of at least one competitor. Trump’s opponent for the Republican nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has criticized Trump’s decision to give Fauci a commendation.
"I think the fact that Donald Trump gave Anthony Fauci a presidential commendation on Trump’s last day in office — that was a gut punch to millions of people around this country who are harmed by Fauci’s lockdowns," DeSantis said in an interview on conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s podcast in May.
Trump’s campaign did not answer our requests for comment.
Presidential commendations are a public recognition of someone’s achievements or contributions to the country. We found examples of these being given to everyday people.
In 2016, for example, former President Barack Obama awarded a commendation to a high school student for her volunteer work.
In 1993, Rollie Schmitten received a presidential commendation from former President Bill Clinton for his contributions to the development of the Endangered Species Act.
In the 1980s, Minnie Leaf, received a presidential commendation from former President Ronald Reagan for her work on behalf of children.
Trump said, "I really don’t know who gave (Dr. Anthony Fauci) the commendation."
The White House’s archived website says the award came from Trump himself.
We rate this claim False.
Megyn Kelly, Former President Donald Trump on not firing Fauci, lockdowns, COVID vaccines, and more, Sept. 13, 2023
MSNBC, Donald Trump: I have one of the great memories of all time. Or do I?, Jan. 26, 2018
White House, President Trump awards presidential commendations to Operation Warp Speed Team, Jan. 19, 2021
Ben Shapiro, DeSantis RIPS into Trump, May 26, 2023
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