15 July 2020 - 12:50
News ID: 450468
A
President Donald Trump on Monday launched new attacks on his own administration’s public health officials, while the White House denied that it had perpetrated a smear campaign against Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the most venerated voices combating the coronavirus.

Rasa - As his standing in public polling sags amid record numbers of daily COVID-19 infections in the United States, Trump has continued to express public dissatisfaction with Fauci for his dire assessments of the outbreak, including on social media, POLITICO reported.

On Monday morning, he retweeted messages from the politically conservative former game show personality Chuck Woolery — who served stints hosting “Wheel of Fortune” and “Love Connection” — which lamented the “most outrageous lies” being spread about the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it,” Woolery wrote in a tweet shared by the president.

In another post Trump retweeted, Woolery claimed there exists “so much evidence, yes scientific evidence, that schools should open this fall. It’s worldwide and it’s overwhelming. BUT NO”.

Trump also retweeted a message from Mark Young, Woolery’s co-host on his “Blunt Force Truth” podcast, which asked, “So based on Dr. Fauci and the Democrats, I will need an ID card to go shopping but not to vote?”

At an afternoon news briefing, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted the president and the country’s top infectious disease expert “have always had a good working relationship”, even after it seemingly plummeted to a new nadir over the weekend.

The most recent public schism between Trump and Fauci, exacerbated by the former’s determination to reopen the national economy and the latter’s dread over the nature of the outbreak, came after an apparent attempt to discredit the doctor Saturday and Sunday.

The White House reportedly told various news outlets that several of its officials were “concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things”, and furnished a lengthy list of statements the widely respected immunologist made in the early days of the outbreak that could appear damaging in retrospect.

Such efforts by the Trump administration to tarnish an individual’s reputation are normally reserved for political rivals — not public-facing, trusted government officials — and McEnany maintained Monday that the White House never sought to besmirch Fauci.

“There is no opposition research being dumped to reporters,” she said, adding, “We were asked a very specific question by The Washington Post, and that question was, ‘President Trump noted that Dr. Fauci had made some mistakes,’ and we provided a direct answer to what was a direct question.”

At a White House event Monday afternoon, the president also told reporters he had a “very good relationship with Dr. Fauci”, and while he does not “always agree with him”, Trump stated, “I get along with him very well. I like him personally.”

But recent congressional testimony and interviews by Fauci suggest communication between the two men is fraying, and that they view the perils posed by the coronavirus in substantially different terms.

Fauci told The Financial Times last Friday that he had not briefed Trump for at least two months, and warned at a Senate Health committee hearing in late June that the US could register as many as 100,000 additional cases per day if further safeguards were not put in place.

In a live-streamed conversation last Monday with his boss, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, Fauci noted the US was still “knee-deep” in its first wave of coroanvirus infections, describing the outbreak as “serious situation that we have to address immediately”.

Trump was dismissive of Fauci in an interview last Tuesday with Gray Television’s Greta Van Susteren, saying, “I think we are in a good place. I disagree with him.”

Speaking with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last Thursday, Trump remarked that “Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes”.

Top administration officials have begun to follow the president’s lead in piling on Fauci, including White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who memorably sparred with the doctor in April over the efficacy of the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment.

“Dr. Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public but he has been wrong about everything I have ever interacted with him on,” Navarro told The Washington Post in a story published Saturday, adding, “So when you ask me if I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is only with caution.”

Appearing Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration’s coronavirus testing czar, stated that while “I respect Dr. Facui a lot”, he is “not 100 percent right, and he also doesn’t necessarily ... have the whole national interest in mind. He looks at it from a very narrow public health point of view”.

McEnany addressed the friction between Fauci and his administration colleagues Monday on “Fox & Friends”, echoing Giroir and arguing that Fauci considers the pandemic response only through the lens of a “public health standpoint”.

“Dr. Fauci’s one member of a team. But rest assured, his viewpoint is represented, and the information gets to the president through” the White House coronavirus task force, McEnany added.

Fauci did not address his feud with Trump during a virtual interview Monday with Lloyd Minor, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, but he did characterize the outbreak as a “really serious problem” that “we haven’t even begun to see the end of” yet.

Increasingly ostracized within Trump’s federal government, Fauci elicited declarations of support Monday from his peers in the medical community, who forcefully defended the veteran director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

David Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, and Ross McKinney, the association’s chief scientific officer, announced in a statement that the AAMC “is extremely concerned and alarmed by efforts to discredit” Fauci, who “has been an independent and outspoken voice for truth as the nation has struggled to fight” the pandemic.

“Taking quotes from Dr. Fauci out of context to discredit his scientific knowledge and judgment will do tremendous harm to our nation’s efforts to get the virus under control, restore our economy, and return us to a more normal way of life,” Skorton and McKinney said, adding, “America should be applauding Dr. Fauci for his service and following his advice, not undermining his credibility at this critical time.”

A majority of Americans, 51 percent, still trust medical advice from Fauci, according to an Economist/YouGov poll conducted last week, including 68 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of Independents and 38 percent of Republicans. Only 33 percent of Americans trust medical advice from Trump.

Fauci is not the only senior health official within the administration to have drawn the president’s ire in recent weeks. Trump similarly targeted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield in a tweet last week that accused the public health agency’s guidelines for reopening schools of being “very tough & expensive”.

The president’s push to return students to classrooms in the fall represents the latest front in his battle for a broad-based economic reopening, in spite of surging COVID-19 caseloads.

The US has notched records for new infections in late June and early July, with daily cases reaching 60,000 for the first time. On Sunday, Florida logged 15,300 new cases, surpassing the daily record reported by any single state since the start of the outbreak.

Although the president ceded to bipartisan calls to wear a mask in public for the first time Saturday, during a visit to Walter Reed National Medical Center, he has remained reluctant to acknowledge the coronavirus’ threat as hotspots continue to emerge in communities across the South and West.

Trump claimed in an interview with Fox Business earlier this month that the highly contagious disease is “at some point ... going to sort of just disappear”, and asserted during an address at the White House marking Independence Day celebrations that “99 percent” of cases are “totally harmless”.

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