Anthony Fauci isn’t about to quit, despite the White House’s clumsy attempts to stain his public image. More so now than at any other point in their uneasy partnership, it seems that if President Donald Trump wants to be rid of Fauci, he’ll need to fire him. In recent days especially, the White House has stepped up efforts to discredit Fauci, a move he describes as “bizarre.”
“Ultimately, it hurts the president to do that,” Fauci told The Atlantic in a series of interviews this week. “When the staff lets out something like that and the entire scientific and press community push back on it, it ultimately hurts the president.”
He described the White House attacks against him as “nonsense” and “completely wrong.” He also seemed dismayed that they are coming at a time when COVID-19 is surging across the country, deaths are once again rising, and Americans remain deeply confused about how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
Targeting Fauci seems like a tragic misuse of White House time and energy if officials’ aim is to defeat the coronavirus. But Trump appears more concerned with discrediting Fauci. Over the weekend, the White House sent multiple news outlets a document that smacked of opposition research. It carried a list of statements Fauci had made about COVID-19, purporting to show that he had contradicted himself about the outbreak and that he “has been wrong on things.” In one example from an NBC interview in February, the White House omitted Fauci’s full quote, giving the impression that he’d misjudged the outbreak’s danger. Peter Navarro, Trump’s top trade adviser, wrote an op-ed for USA Today yesterday claiming that Fauci has been “wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.” (A Trump communications aide tried to distance the White House from the op-ed this morning.)