The White House reportedly told various news outlets Saturday and Sunday that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things,” and furnished a lengthy list of statements the widely respected immunologist made in the early days of the outbreak.
The type of smear effort directed by the Trump administration against one of its most public-facing, trusted members is traditionally reserved for political rivals, and came after the president expressed public dissatisfaction with Fauci for his dire assessments of the outbreak in congressional testimony and media interviews.
Fauci, who told the Financial Times last Friday that he had not briefed Trump for at least two months, warned at a Senate health committee hearing in late June that the U.S. could register as many as 100,000 additional cases per day if further safeguards were not put in place.
In a live-streamed conversation last Monday with his boss, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, Fauci said the U.S. was still “knee-deep” in its first wave of coroanvirus infections, describing the outbreak as “serious situation that we have to address immediately.”
But Trump was dismissive of Fauci in an interview last Tuesday with Gray Television’s Greta Van Susteren, saying: “I think we are in a good place. I disagree with him.” And speaking with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last Thursday, Trump remarked that “Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.”
Top administration officials have begun to follow the president’s lead in piling on Fauci, including White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who memorably sparred with the doctor in April over the efficacy of the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment.
“Dr. Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public but he has been wrong about everything I have ever interacted with him on,” Navarro told The Washington Post in a story published Saturday, adding: “So when you ask me if I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is only with caution.”
Appearing Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration’s coronavirus testing czar, said that while “I respect Dr. Facui a lot,” he is “not 100 percent right, and he also doesn’t necessarily … have the whole national interest in mind. He looks at it from a very narrow public health point of view.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany addressed the friction between Fauci and his administration colleagues Monday on “Fox & Friends,” echoing Giroir and arguing that Fauci considers the pandemic response only through the lens of a “public health standpoint.”
“Dr. Fauci’s one member of a team. But rest assured, his viewpoint is represented, and the information gets to the president through” the White House coronavirus task force, McEnany said.
Fauci is not the only senior health official within the administration to have drawn the president’s ire in recent weeks. Trump similarly targeted CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield in a tweet last week that accused the public health agency’s guidelines for reopening schools of being “very tough & expensive.”
The president’s push to return students to classrooms in the fall represents the latest front in his pressure campaign for a broad-based economic reopening, in spite of surging Covid-19 caseloads.
The U.S. has notched records for new infections in late June and early July, with daily cases reaching 60,000 for the first time. On Sunday, Florida logged 15,000 new cases, surpassing the daily record reported by any single state since the start of the outbreak.
Although Trump ceded to bipartisan calls to wear a mask in public for the first time Saturday, during a visit to Walter Reed National Medical Center, he has remained reluctant to acknowledge the coronavirus’ threat as hotspots continue to emerge across in communities across the South and West.
He claimed in an interview with Fox Business earlier this month that the highly contagious disease is “at some point … going to sort of just disappear,” and asserted during an address at the White House marking Independence Day celebrations that “99 percent” of cases are “totally harmless.”