Health and Science

White House seeks to discredit Fauci amid coronavirus surge

Josh Lederman and Kelly O'Donnell
Key Points
  • A White House official told NBC News that "several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things," citing his early 2020 guidance on how to deal with the emerging pandemic.
  • White House health advisor Fauci said, in January, that the novel coronavirus was "not a major threat" then. He also dismissed the need for the general population to wear masks early on, but later changed his advice.
  • Many of Fauci's past statements which the White House is criticizing now were based on the best available data at the time and were widely echoed by Trump, other members of the task force and senior White House officials.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on efforts to get back to work and school during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Washington, D.C., June 30, 2020.
Al Drago | Reuters

The White House is seeking to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, as it works to marginalize him and his dire warnings about the shortcomings in the U.S. coronavirus response.

A White House official told NBC News that "several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things." The official provided NBC News with a lengthy list of past comments by Fauci earlier in the pandemic, including Fauci saying in January that coronavirus was "not a major threat" and "not driven by asymptomatic carriers" and Fauci's comment in March that "people should not be walking around with masks."

Many of the past statements the White House is criticizing Fauci for are ones that were based on the best available data at the time and were widely echoed by Trump, other members of the task force and senior White House officials. As Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CBS News on Sunday, "When you learn more, you change those recommendations. Our recommendations have changed."

The attacks on Fauci come as coronavirus surges nationwide, which Trump has repeatedly downplayed as a result of increased testing rather than increased infections. Florida on Sunday reported over 15,000 new cases, the most any state has reported in a single day since the pandemic began. The U.S. on Friday also surpassed 70,000 new coronavirus cases nationwide for the first time ever.

The list circulated by the White House bears striking resemblance to the opposition research that political candidates often circulate to the media about their opponents.

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The White House on Sunday declined to provide further comment about Fauci. White House spokesman Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday declined to say whether Trump still has confidence in Fauci. Fauci did not immediately return a request for comment on Sunday.

The White House official's remark questioning Fauci was first reported by The Washington Post.

The attempt to discredit Fauci comes amid signs of growing tensions between Fauci and the president. Fauci said last week he hadn't seen Trump in person since June 2 and hadn't briefed him in person in at least two months. Trump told Gray Television's Greta Van Susteren last week that Fauci has made mistakes and added, "I disagree with him."

Another member of the coronavirus task force, Admiral Brett Giroir, added to the Fauci pile-on today when he told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Fauci has not always been correct.

"I respect Dr. Fauci a lot, but Dr. Fauci is not 100 percent right and he also doesn't necessarily, he admits that, have the whole national interest in mind. He looks at it from a very narrow public health point of view," Giroir said.

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