White House economic adviser Peter Navarro has penned a blistering op-ed targeting Dr. Anthony Fauci, claiming he listens to the nation's top infectious-disease expert "only with skepticism and caution." "He has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on," reads the critique published Tuesday in USA Today. Navarro, who clashed with Fauci over the use of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, claims the doctor "fought against the president's courageous decision" to block travel from China in January and sought to assuage the public of the dangers in February "when I was working feverishly on behalf of the president … to help engineer the fastest industrial mobilization of the health care sector in our history." The reaction:
- The op-ed "mirrors some of the president's own criticisms of Fauci," per CBS News. In May, Trump claimed Fauci disagreed with his decision to block travel from China, though conservative magazine The Dispatch determined that was untrue. It noted Fauci supported the move publicly and, reportedly, privately as well.
- Trump has become increasingly critical of Fauci. But even the White House is backing away from Navarro's take. Alyssa Farah, director of strategic communications, says the op-ed "didn't go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone." She adds Trump "values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his administration."
- However, the White House issued talking points this week faulting Fauci for not taking the virus seriously enough early in the pandemic. Those talking points "left out critical portions of Fauci's early comments in which he specified that he was making assessments based on the best available information at the time and that the outlook could dramatically shift," per Business Insider.
- Several of Navarro's claims don't hold up to scrutiny. "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 writes. (Trump has falsely claimed the US has "the lowest Mortality Rate in the World.") What Fauci actually said last week was that "it's a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death" because "there's so many other things that are dangerous and bad about the virus," per CNN.
- Navarro also complains about Fauci "flip-flopping on the use of masks." But "other administration officials have offered conflicting guidance to the public about the use of masks or face coverings," per CBS. The Hill notes there were early concerns about shortages affecting health care workers.
- Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist, refers to the op-ed as "an outright and full blown Antiscience disinformation campaign coming out of the White House," per Forbes. "If this White House were waging war on Covid-19 half as much as they’re attacking Dr Fauci the economy would be in much better shape ... and a lot of people would be alive who no longer are," adds Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass.
- On Sunday, the White House denied that it was trying to undermine Fauci, whose dire warnings often grate against Trump's optimistic tone on the state of the country. That same day, Dan Scavino, the White House deputy chief of staff for communications, shared a cartoon in which Fauci appears as a faucet drowning Uncle Sam with water droplets containing the words "Indefinite lockdown!" and "Shut up and obey!" per the New York Times.
(Read more Peter Navarro