After days of White House attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Trump administration is now claiming it "values" the expertise of its medical advisers.
Peter Navarro, Donald Trump's top trade adviser, published a scathing opinion piece in USA Today on Tuesday attacking Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force.
In the piece, titled, "Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on," Navarro blamed Fauci for opposing some travel restrictions; backing the widespread use of face masks after initially urging people to save them for medical professionals; opposing the use of hydroxychloroquine — the unproven anti-malarial medication Trump touted as a "miracle" cure — to treat COVID-19; and advising the public that a declining death rate from the virus should not encourage "false complacency."
"So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci's advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution," Navarro wrote.
On Wednesday morning, White House strategic communications director Alyssa Farah claimed Navarro had not received approval from the administration before publishing his piece in USA Today.
"The Peter Navarro op-ed didn't go through normal White House clearance process and is the opinion of Peter alone," Farah tweeted, adding that Trump "values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration."
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, called Navarro's piece "an outright and full blown Antiscience disinformation campaign."
But while the Trump administration has disclaimed this latest attack, it has launched several other attempts to discredit Fauci in recent weeks using many of the same arguments as Navarro.
On Monday, a White House staffer sent a long list of Fauci's "wrong" prior comments to the Washington Post, including statements Fauci had made based on the limited information about the novel coronavirus available in the early days of the pandemic.
Last Thursday, Trump told Fox News, "Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes, like, you don't have to ban them coming in from very infected China. I did it anyway, and we saved hundreds of thousands of lives." Nonpartisan fact-checkers have debunked Trump's frequent claim that his January partial freeze on travel from China had had that impact.
Last Tuesday, Trump said, "I disagree with him. Dr. Fauci said don't wear masks and now he says wear them. And he said numerous things. 'Don't close off China.'"
Navarro had previously attacked Fauci's credibility about hydroxychloroquine, telling CNN in April that, as social scientist with a doctorate who "understand[s] how to read statistical studies," he was just as qualified to discuss medicine as the nation's top epidemiologist.
Fauci is not the only public health expert Trump has sought to undermine in recent days.
On Monday, he retweeted a baseless claim made by a fellow former television game show host alleging that the "CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors" are "lying" about COVID-19 to prevent an economic recovery that would help Trump get reelected.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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