Trump administration officials moved to undercut Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday amid reports the White House is sidelining the nation’s top infectious disease expert as cases of the coronavirus continue to surge.
Both The Washington Post and NBC News said they received statements from the White House trying to discredit Fauci, who has given bleak interviews and issued dire warnings in recent days as the number of infections climb to record-breaking levels. The doctor’s assessments have stood in stark contrast to President Donald Trump’s push to reopen the country while claiming states with troubling levels of infections are “going to be fine.”
“Several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things,” the unnamed official said in a statement to the outlets. The aide included a list of nearly a dozen comments Fauci made early during the pandemic, before scientists developed an understanding of the novel virus.
Fauci is “never in the Oval [Office] anymore,” the Post reported, noting the last time he briefed Trump was the first week of June.
The move to undercut one of the nation’s touchstones for scientific wisdom amid the pandemic is significant. The New York Times noted the list of Fauci’s comments included incomplete quotes and was “laid out in the style of a campaign’s opposition research document.”
Fauci has taken a more aggressive tone in recent weeks amid skyrocketing infection rates in states. On Thursday he said the country was not doing well in its fight against the virus, blaming a divisive culture that has politicized efforts to stymie infections including the use of masks in public.
“Let me say there are parts of the United States … that are doing really well, that you’ve been through something really bad and you have things under control,” he told FiveThirtyEight’s “Podcast-19.” “But as a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not.”
Fauci’s advice has shifted in recent months as scientists better understand the threat of the pandemic. There are still many things researchers are working to figure out, however, including why the virus places some patients in the hospital while others have no obvious symptoms at all. NBC said many of the assertions the White House is using to discredit the doctor were based on what was known at the time.
“When you learn more, you change those recommendations,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CBS News in an interview on Sunday. “Our recommendations have changed.”
Trump, for his part, has pushed back against a more vocal Fauci.
“I disagree with him,” Trump said an interview last week with Greta Van Susteren. “You know, Dr. Fauci said, ‘Don’t wear masks,’ and now he says wear them. And you know, he’s said numerous things, ‘Don’t close off China. Don’t ban China.’ And I did it anyway. I sort of didn’t listen to my experts, and I banned China.”
A poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College last month found a wide disparity in trust in Fauci and Trump. The poll found 67% of American voters trusted the doctor for accurate information about the coronavirus, while just 26% felt the same about the president.
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