A USA Today op-ed attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci and penned by White House trade advisor Peter Navarro faced blistering criticism Wednesday morning, as academics, politicians and medical experts rallied behind the country’s top infectious diseases expert for the second time in under a week.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
“Dr. Anthony Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public, but he has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” wrote Navarro.
The White House trade advisor cited Fauci’s reported resistance to banning travelers from China and the use of hydroxychloroquine, along with the shifting federal policy on mask-wearing, as reasons to be skeptical.
Reaction on social media was swift, as medical experts, academics, politicians and regular Americans went to bat for Fauci, viewed as one of the country’s most-trusted voices of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is an outright and full blown Antiscience disinformation campaign coming out of the White House,” tweeted Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist, pediatrician and professor.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Ca., said President Trump should either fire Navarro or Fauci (which Trump does not have the direct authority to do), adding, “you can’t keep confusing the American people with your officials making contradictory statements about Covid.”
Former Bush administration deputy press secretary Tony Fratto tweeted that Fauci is “one of the finest people I ever came across in government” and “The attempted trashing of his reputation by the likes of a kook like Peter Navarro is a disgrace.”
“Just when I thought nothing this administration did could surprise me, I see this attack on our leading infectious disease expert by a senior advisor to the POTUS with zero background in global health,” wrote Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass on Twitter. “One expects this in Animal House, not the White House.”
Bipartisan support for Fauci came earlier in the week from GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. “We don’t have a Dr. Fauci problem,” Graham said during a Tuesday press briefing, adding, “I have all the respect in the world for Dr. Fauci. “I think any effort to undermine him is not going to be productive, quite frankly.” A spokesperson for Biden told Forbes Monday that the attacks on Fauci are “the president’s disgusting attempt to pass the buck by blaming the top infectious disease expert in the country.”
Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has decades of experience in the role and leading U.S. policy on the handling of emerging public health threats. Recent polling indicates Americans trust Fauci over trump for information on the coronavirus. Despite this, reports emerged over the weekend that the White House is mounting attacks on Fauci to undercut his sway with the public and focus on reopening the economy. The reports followed criticism from Trump himself, who told Fox News Thursday that Fauci has made “a lot of mistakes.” A bevy of experts and public figures came to Fauci’s defense Monday, including former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, Harvard Global Health Institute Director Dr. Ashish Jha, along with the actress Mia Farrow and singer Cher.
“The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone,” tweeted White House communications director Alyssa Farah on Wednesday morning.e.