Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the US top infectious disease expert, called recent efforts from the White House to discredit him “bizarre” and a hindrance to the government’s ability to communicate information about the coronavirus pandemic.“I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with The Atlantic published on Wednesday, speaking of recent attempts by President Trump’s aides to undermine him. “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them.”
Recently some White House officials, including the president Donald Trump and the press secretary, assert in face of evidence that there is no concerted effort to attack Dr. Fauci.“We’re all on the same team, including Dr. Fauci,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Wednesday as he left the White House for Atlanta. When he was asked about Mr. Navarro’s choice to go around White House channels to publish the op-ed article in USA Today, the president added that Mr. Navarro “shouldn’t be doing that.”
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One that he had not read the piece, but criticized Mr. Navarro’s decision to publish it without allowing other officials to vet the content.“Peter Navarro’s statement or op-ed or whatever you want to classify it as was an independent action that was a violation of well-established protocols that was not supported overtly or covertly by anybody in the West Wing,” Mr. Meadows said. “I think Peter Navarro spoke for himself.”
During a coronavirus task force meeting on Wednesday, Dr. Fauci sat next to Vice President Mike Pence. As the group discussed reopening schools, possible vaccines and therapy treatments, Mr. Pence’s office made sure to send out a picture of the men sitting together.“He’s a valued member of our team,” Mr. Pence told the TV host Greta Van Susteren in an interview, adding that administration officials “have great respect for him.”
Dr. Fauci, 79, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a post he has held since 1984, is no stranger to criticism. He oversaw much of the government’s response to the AIDS epidemic, weathering criticism from activists like Larry Kramer, who called him a “murderer” and an “incompetent idiot.”Mr. Trump’s administration presents a different challenge.
Because Dr. Fauci is a career civil servant, his job is not in jeopardy, and it is unlikely that Mr. Trump can completely exile him, given his emergence as the government’s most credible voice on the pandemic. He has not briefed Mr. Trump in weeks, preferring to work with Dr. Deborah L. Birx, who helps coordinate the administration’s coronavirus response, or to send his messages through Mr. Pence.
“We’ve got to almost reset this and say, ‘OK, let’s stop this nonsense.’ We’ve got to figure out, how can we get our control over this now, and, looking forward, how can we make sure that next month, we don’t have another example of California, Texas, Florida and Arizona?” Dr Fauci affirmed yesterday, adding: “So rather than these games people are playing, let’s focus on that.”In the interview, Dr. Fauci discussed the op-ed article by Mr. Navarro, which had the stark headline, “Anthony Fauci Has Been Wrong About Everything I Have Interacted with Him On.”
In the piece, Mr. Navarro presented what White House officials have been saying privately about Dr. Fauci, and what Mr. Trump has said publicly: They like Dr. Fauci personally, but he has made mistakes. Dr. Fauci responded with bewilderment. “I can’t explain Peter Navarro,” he said. “He’s in a world by himself.” The White House sought to distance itself from the attack by Mr. Navarro, but so far has not attacked the substance of his piece. And officials declined to comment when one of the president’s closest advisers, Dan Scavino, posted a mocking cartoon of Dr. Fauci to social media. According to Worldometer, the US recorded so far 3,616,747 Coronavirus cases, 140,140 deaths, while 1,645,962 patients are recovered.