White House lets trade adviser publicly attack Fauci after insisting there was no effort to undermine him

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a briefing on coronavirus in the Brady press briefing room at the White House, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon via CNN)

(CNN) — Top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro openly attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci in an op-ed on Tuesday, after the White House repeatedly insisted there has been no effort to undermine the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.

The USA Today op-ed, which like all other opinion pieces from White House officials had to be edited and approved by the press office, marks a stunning shift in strategy after the President said he had a “very good” relationship with Fauci and White House officials insisted he would not be dismissed.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public, but he has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” Navarro writes in the op-ed.

“So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution.”

Before the op-ed was published Tuesday evening, the White House appeared to be recalibrating its approach to Fauci, who sat for a lengthy meeting with chief of staff Mark Meadows on Monday, after White House officials questioned his record in a statement to reporters.

Speaking during a midday briefing Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said officials simply “provided a direct answer to what was a direct question” when they issued the list of Fauci’s statements.

“There’s no opposition research being dumped to reporters,” she said, insisting later that Trump and Fauci have “always had a very good working relationship.”

Still, Trump’s irritation with Fauci has, at times, been encouraged by Navarro 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.

Fauci — who is expected to attend Wednesday’s coronavirus task force meeting, according to a senior administration official — appeared to acknowledge how that tension has led to mixed messaging while speaking at a Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service event earlier Tuesday

“I believe, for the most part, you can trust respected medical authorities. I believe I’m one of them, so I think you can trust me, but I would stick with respected medical authorities who have a track record of telling the truth,” Fauci said. “Who have a track record of giving information and policy and recommendations based on scientific evidence and good data.”

He added, “It’s entirely understandable how the public can get mixed messages and then get a bit confused about what they should do.”