WASHINGTON - The White House distanced itself Wednesday from a new attack on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, even though a newspaper opinion article mirrored some of the same thoughts as those of President Donald Trump.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said in an opinion piece in the USA Today newspaper that Fauci “has a good bedside manner with the public, but he has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.”
After the piece was published, though, White House director of strategic communications, Alyssa Farah, said Navarro’s article “didn't go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone.”
She said Trump “values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his administration.”
The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone. @realDonaldTrump values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration.— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) July 15, 2020
When asked about the article at the White House, Trump said, "That's Peter Navarro, but I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.”
Later, Trump rebuked Navarro, saying, “He made a statement representing himself. He shouldn’t be doing that.”
In an interview with The Atlantic magazine, Fauci said he “cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why” the White House has tried to undercut his expertise and advice. “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them,” he said.
As for the comments from Navarro, Fauci said, “I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself.”
Trump, in trying to boost the flagging U.S. economy in the face of the unrelenting advance of the coronavirus pandemic, has voiced skepticism in recent days about the assessments of Fauci and other government medical experts.
The president, facing a tough reelection contest in November against former Vice President Joe Biden, has for months downplayed the impact of the virus and most recently claimed that the impact of the new surge in the number of cases in the U.S. is 99% “totally harmless.”
The U.S. leader told one interviewer, Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity, that he likes Fauci personally but that he had “made a lot of mistakes.”
A few days ago, Trump retweeted a comment from former game show host Chuck Woolery, who, without evidence, claimed that “everyone is lying,” including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust.”
Brett Giroir, a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and one of several physicians who have been the face of the government’s response to the pandemic in the United States, rejected that contention in an interview on NBC on Tuesday.
“We may occasionally make mistakes based on the information we have,” Giroir said, “but none of us lie. We are completely transparent with the American people. None of us are 100% right. None of us are always right, and we admit that.”
Navarro, in the USA Today article, said, “In late January, when I was making the case on behalf of the president to take down the flights from China, Fauci fought against the president’s courageous decision — which might well have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives.”
The ban barred foreign nationals who had recently visited China, where the coronavirus originated, from entering the U.S. but did not exclude immediate family members of American citizens and permanent residents.
Navarro claimed that in late January when he was warning of “a possibly deadly pandemic,” Fauci “was telling the news media not to worry."
Navarro also contended that Fauci had flip-flopped on the use of masks. However, Fauci for months now has urged Americans to wear them, even though Trump only wore one in public for the first time last weekend.
“Now Fauci says a falling mortality rate doesn’t matter when it is the single most important statistic to help guide the pace of our economic reopening,” Navarro said. “The lower the mortality rate, the faster and more we can open.
“So, when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution,” Navarro concluded.
Giroir, in the NBC interview, said, “We are all very concerned about the outbreak” of thousands of new cases in the U.S.
Giroir said that while the number of coronavirus patients in U.S. hospitals has dropped from a peak of 85,000 to 63,000, “as hospitalizations go up, we would expect deaths to also go up.”
More than 136,000 Americans already have died from the virus, and more than 3.4 million have been infected. Both figures are far and away the biggest national totals across the globe.