The White House on Wednesday disavowed an overt attack on the government's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, from one of President Trump's senior advisers on trade and China, Peter Navarro.
Navarro wrote an op-ed for USA Today on Tuesday in which he argued that Fauci "has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on" — another salvo in a series of pointed remarks against the immunologist.
The White House has struggled to explain why top aides appear to be at open war with a widely respected scientist whom an overwhelming majority of Americans say they trust more on the coronavirus than the president, or almost anyone else.
Navarro, who has no medical training, ticked through a series of matters on which he disagreed with Fauci, including the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus. The National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have said the malaria drug is unlikely to be effective.
Spokespeople for Fauci at the NIH did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Navarro's list of issues was similar to a list that The Washington Post reported it received from the White House to explain why Trump recently said Fauci "is a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes." Trump has said he likes Fauci personally but disagrees with him on some things.
On Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted that "it couldn't be further from the truth" that the White House was dropping opposition research on Fauci.
Two White House officials who declined to be named insisted Navarro "went rogue" and didn't clear his editorial with the White House communications team. On the record, communications director Alyssa Farah tweeted that the White House doesn't stand by Navarro's editorial, which represents "the opinion of Peter alone."
This isn't an entirely isolated incident. On Sunday night, assistant to the president and White House deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino posted to his Facebook page an editorial cartoon lampooning Fauci. The cartoon portrayed Fauci as a sink faucet and implied that he was throwing cold water on the economy and was in cahoots with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Sorry, Dr. Faucet! At least you know if I'm going to disagree with a colleague, such as yourself, it's done publicly — and not cowardly, behind journalists with leaks. See you tomorrow!" Scavino wrote.
As of Wednesday, the post was still up.
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