White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said he wasn't invited to President Donald Trump's press conference Tuesday on the coronavirus pandemic — the president's first public briefing on the outbreak in months.
"I was not invited up to this point and I'm assuming I'm not going to be there," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a CNN interview less than an hour before the 5 p.m. briefing was scheduled to start.
Trump and other administration officials have criticized Fauci's advice on the pandemic in recent weeks, widening an apparent rift between the White House and its top infectious disease advisor who is a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force.
In a scathing op-ed published last Tuesday, Trump's trade advisor Peter Navarro criticized Fauci, saying he "has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on." Similarly, during an interview earlier this month with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Trump said, "Dr. Fauci's a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes."
"They've been wrong about a lot of things, including face masks," Trump said. "Maybe they're wrong, maybe not. A lot of them said don't wear a mask, don't wear a mask. Now they're saying wear a mask. A lot of mistakes were made, a lot of mistakes."
Even with the recent criticism, Fauci told "The Atlantic" magazine in a recent interview that he tries to avoid politics and hasn't thought about resigning.
"I think the problem is too important for me to get into those kinds of thoughts and discussions," he said, according to an edited transcript of the interview. "I just want to do my job. I'm really good at it. I think I can contribute. And I'm going to keep doing it."
During the CNN interview, Fauci said if he were to attend the meeting Tuesday, he would tell state leaders to adopt mask mandates and encourage them to close bars.
"Outdoors is better than indoors, particularly if you're going to have restaurants ... Wash your hands. It's really not rocket science," he said.
He said the U.S. can still defeat the coronavirus, which continues to rapidly spread across the nation. The virus has infected more than 3.8 million Americans and killed at least 141,118 as of Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The pandemic response "isn't as uniform as we would like," he said. "We know we need to do that."