White House distances itself from Navarro’s screed against Fauci

Josh Wingrove

The Trump administration is distancing itself from a senior adviser’s critique of Anthony Fauci, the immunologist who has delivered warnings about the coronavirus’s resurgence as the president pushes to reopen.

Peter Navarro, the White House’s director for the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, wrote an op-ed published in USA Today, criticizing Fauci. Navarro also had earlier sent a similar statement to CBS.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro speaks with reporters at the White House in this June 18, 2020, file photo. Navarro wrote an op-ed published in USA Today, criticizing Fauci.

The statement was not signed off on by the White House communications office, according to Alyssa Farah, the White House’s director of strategic communications. Navarro was speaking for himself, Farah said Wednesday.

In his statement, Navarro said Fauci has regularly been wrong, saying he didn’t favor Trump’s travel ban from China, initially downplayed the risk of the virus and flip-flopped on masks. “When you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution,” Navarro wrote.

It’s the latest broadside from the administration of one of the country’s top health officials. Donald Trump himself has chastised Fauci over his caution about opening schools, though said this week the two get along well. Dan Scavino, another senior adviser to Trump, posted an image to his Facebook campaign depicting Fauci as “Dr. Faucet,” washing the U.S. economy down the drain.

Fauci was once a ubiquitous figure in daily task force briefings, but hasn’t spoken publicly at the White House since late April. Fauci has regularly been more candid in warning of the virus’s risks, and the dangers of a hasty reopening, than Trump himself and other administration officials.

White House criticisms of Fauci have drawn pushback from Republican circles. “We don’t have a Dr. Fauci problem,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said Tuesday in South Carolina, according to The State newspaper.

“The attempted trashing of his reputation by the likes of a kook like Peter Navarro is a disgrace,” Tony Fratto, a White House aide under George W. Bush, tweeted Wednesday.

Fauci, speaking Tuesday before the op-ed was published, was asked about criticism bubbling up from the White House. “It doesn’t bother me. I have a job to do and I do it. I don’t pay attention to noise, I pay attention to substance. All of that is noise,” he replied.