WASHINGTON: US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday (Jul 15) he did not understand the White House effort to discredit him in the battle against coronavirus and believed it was a "major mistake" that reflected poorly on them.
The White House over the weekend distributed a list of statements Fauci made early in the pandemic that turned out to be wrong as understanding of the disease developed, according to media reports. Trump said this week he valued Fauci's input but did not always agree with him.
"You know, it is a bit bizarre. I don't really fully understand it," Fauci said in an interview with The Atlantic.
He said he believed the people involved in releasing that list, which was misleading because it did not include the entirety of Fauci's statements or other context, are really "taken aback by what a big mistake that was."
"I think if you talk to reasonable people in the White House they realize that was a major mistake on their part because it doesn't do anything but reflect poorly on them. And I don't think that was their intention," Fauci said.
"I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that," he said.
White House tensions with Fauci have risen with the decline of Trump’s popularity in opinion polls over the president’s handling of the outbreak.
The Republican president, who is seeking re-election in November, has been increasingly critical of government health officials and their guidance as a rise in infections threatens the easing of shutdown restrictions across the country.
The White House has denied Fauci, who is a trusted and popular figure among Americans, has been sidelined. However, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote a critical opinion piece attacking Fauci for having made mistakes.
Before departing for a trip to Atlanta, Trump was asked whether Navarro had gone rogue.
"Well he made a statement representing himself. He shouldn't be doing that. No, I have a very good relationship with Anthony," Trump said.
"I can't explain Peter Navarro he's in a world by himself. So I don't even want to go there," Fauci told the Atlantic.
Fauci said in a Financial Times interview last week he had not briefed Trump in two months. He said on Wednesday his advice is passed onto Trump indirectly, via Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force.