As coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States continue to climb, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force, says he isn’t sure why the White House is actively trying to discredit him.
“That is a bit bizarre,” Fauci told the Atlantic in an interview published Wednesday. “It doesn’t do anything but reflect poorly on them.”
“Ultimately, it hurts the president to do that,” Fauci added.
The latest attempt to cast doubt on the views held by the nation’s top infectious disease expert came in the form of a scathing op-ed by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro published by USA Today. In it, Navarro claims Fauci “has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.”
In his interview with the Atlantic, Fauci said, “I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself.”
Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn Wednesday, Trump was asked whether Navarro had “gone rogue” in writing the op-ed.
“He made a statement representing himself,” Trump said. “He shouldn’t be doing that.”
Navarro did not respond to multiple requests from Yahoo News for comment.
Alyssa Farah, director of strategic communications at the White House, said in a tweet Wednesday that the op-ed “didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone.”
CNN reported that the White House did not sign off on Navarro’s op-ed. But according to the Los Angeles Times, it was Trump himself who authorized it.
Over the weekend, White House aides sent reporters an opposition-research-style list of comments made by Fauci early in the coronavirus outbreak that later proved to be wrong.
According to the Washington Post, the list included Fauci’s doubts that asymptomatic people could play a significant role in spreading the virus, and his assertion in February, when the first U.S. case of community transmission was reported, that there was no reason “at this moment” for Americans to change their day-to-day behavior.
“I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that,” Fauci told the Atlantic. “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them.”
“I stand by everything I said,” Fauci said. “Contextually, at the time I said it, it was absolutely true.”
The White House document, he added, is “totally wrong. It’s nonsense. It’s completely wrong. The whole thing is wrong. The whole thing is incorrect.”
According to the Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 3.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States and more than 136,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The president has repeatedly said he has a “very good relationship” with Fauci, a claim he repeated on Wednesday.
“We’re all on the same team, including Dr. Fauci,” Trump said. “I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.”
Trump’s last in-person meeting with Fauci occurred on June 2.
Despite the evident friction, Fauci said he has not considered resigning from his post.
“No. I think the problem is too important for me to get into those kinds of thoughts and discussions,” Fauci said. “I just want to do my job. I’m really good at it. I think I can contribute. And I’m going to keep doing it.”