The White House made a concerted effort to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci this weekend, after he gave a widely-publicized interview with the Financial Times. The interview commanded headlines because Fauci conceded he had barely spoken to the President in months.
Though last week’s interview with the FT was approved by the White House press shop, according to an aide familiar, administration officials distributed a list this weekend to multiple outlets that included statements made by Fauci during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. The White House cited this as evidence Fauci had been wrong — without noting statements from the surgeon general urging people not to buy masks, or acknowledging the president’s own misstatements about the virus.
Trump annoyed by Fauci’s comments: A person familiar with the situation said it was because Trump had grown annoyed by Fauci’s public statements. Though Trump was already displeased by Fauci’s television appearances early on, the White House has sought to downplay tension between the two for several months. The press shop stopped approving Fauci’s television appearances, believing it would help alleviate the situation, though they continued to allow him to give interviews with print outlets.
Rare in-person meetings with the Trump and Fauci are not awkward and don’t involve raised voices, but Trump has complained about Fauci privately, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Sources say part of that irritation is over the “good press” Fauci has received. Trump’s irritation with Fauci has also, at times, been encouraged by Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, who has repeatedly blamed Fauci for doubting the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.
Navarro once told Fauci he would be personally responsible if it was later shown that hydroxychloroquine worked to treat coronavirus, despite multiple studies questioning its use.
In an interview on Meet the Press Sunday, Admiral Brett Giroir said there is “open discourse” within the task force.
“I respect Dr. Fauci a lot, but Dr. Fauci is not 100% right and he also doesn’t necessarily, and he admits that, have the whole national interest in mind. He looks at it from a very narrow public health point of view,” Giroir said.
Fauci is scheduled to be in the West Wing Monday for meetings.