Politics

White House takes aim at Fauci as he disagrees with President Trump on virus

White House takes aim at the nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci as he disagrees with President Donald Trump on the ongoing pandemic. (Getty Images via CNN)

(CNN) — As coronavirus cases surge in the United States, the White House is taking aim at the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

In a statement Saturday, a White House official told CNN that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.” The official went on to provide a lengthy list of examples, citing Fauci’s comments early in the pandemic and linking to past interviews. These bullet points, which resembled opposition research on a political opponent, included Fauci downplaying the virus early on and a quote from March when Fauci said, “People should not be walking around with masks,” among other comments.

The move by the White House comes as President Donald Trump and Fauci are not speaking. The tension between the two men has grown publicly as the two have responded to one another through interviews and statements.

In a recent series of newspaper and radio interviews, Fauci has at times openly disagreed with Trump.

“As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not,” Fauci said in one interview. In another, Fauci responded to the President’s claim that “99%” of coronavirus cases in the United States were “totally harmless,” saying he didn’t know where the President got the number, and suggesting Trump’s interpretation was “obviously not the case.”

Trump has taken to publicly criticizing Fauci on national television.

“Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes,” Trump said last week, undermining the public health expert whom Americans say in polls they trust more than the President.

In recent interviews, he openly questioned the advice he’d received from Fauci at the start of the outbreak.

“I think we are in a good place. I disagree with him,” Trump said in an interview Tuesday when questioned about Fauci’s assertion the US is still “knee-deep in the first wave” of the pandemic.

One senior administration official told CNN that some officials within the White House do not trust Fauci. According to the source, those officials think Fauci doesn’t have the best interest of the President, pointing to interviews where he openly disagrees with what Trump has said.

Other administration officials have told CNN that while they have disagreements with Fauci’s methods, they don’t doubt his motives, and that his only concern was public health.

In response to questions about the White House appearing to actively discredit Fauci, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at Health and Human Services, Michael Caputo, said there was no White House-versus-the scientists narrative, and provided a statement.

“We have great faith in the capacity of all of our scientists and doctors on the coronavirus taskforce to impart necessary public health information. People like Admiral (Brett) Giroir, Surgeon General (Jerome) Adams and others are carrying these messages very effectively,” Caputo said in the statement, although he did not directly answer questions about Fauci.

Fauci did not return a request for comment by CNN.

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