The White House is seeking to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, as President Donald Trump works to marginalize him and his dire warnings about the shortcomings in the U.S. coronavirus response.
In a remarkable broadside by the Trump administration against one of its own, a White House official told NBC News on Sunday that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.” To bolster the case, the official provided NBC News with a list of nearly a dozen past comments by Fauci earlier in the pandemic that the official said had ultimately proven erroneous.
Among them: Fauci’s comments in January that coronavirus was “not a major threat” and “not driven by asymptomatic carriers” and Fauci’s comment in March that “people should not be walking around with masks.”
It was a move more characteristic of a political campaign furtively disseminating “opposition research” about an opponent than of a White House struggling to contain a pandemic that has already killed more than 135,000 Americans, according to an NBC News tally.
Fauci, who runs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had been a leading member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and a key communicator with the public about the virus until the president soured on Fauci’s sober assessments of the situation, which have increasingly conflicted with the more sanguine picture of a virus in retreat that the president has sought to paint.
In recent days, Fauci has deviated from Trump by disputing that the U.S. is “doing great” and faulting the decision in some states to re-open too quickly and sidestep the task force’s suggested criteria for when it’s safe to loosen restrictions. In one particularly alarming prediction, Fauci said he would not be surprised if the U.S. was soon adding 100,000 new cases per day— a figure that would reflect an abject failure to slow the spread.
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