Vice President Mike Pence defended Dr. Anthony Fauci as a “valued” member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Wednesday after trade adviser Peter Navarro publicly criticized his projections throughout the pandemic.
During a Trump campaign call with reporters Wednesday, Fox News asked the vice president to respond to recent criticisms of Fauci, specifically Navarro’s scathing op-ed published earlier in the day.
“Dr. Tony Fauci is a valued member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force,” Pence told Fox News on the call. “We just completed our latest meeting today, and we couldn’t be more grateful for his steady counsel as we continue to meet this moment with a whole of government approach—a whole of America approach.”
In an op-ed for USA Today, Navarro said Fauci has been “wrong about everything.”
“Dr. Anthony Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public, but he has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” Navarro wrote.
Navarro began by saying that Fauci “fought against” Trump’s “courageous decision” in late January to suspend flights from China as the novel coronavirus began to spread, arguing that that decision “might well have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives.”
Navarro went on to complain Fauci was “flip-flopping on the use of masks.”
He dinged Fauci for downplaying falling mortality rates, amid the debate over whether businesses should be allowed to reopen or stay shuttered. Navarro added: “So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice my answer is: only with skepticism and caution.”
Tensions have been bubbling between the White House and Fauci. Officials have reportedly been concerned about the number of times Fauci has “been wrong on things,” according to a report last week.
A senior administration official, though, told Fox News that Navarro’s op-ed slamming Fauci was “definitely not approved by the White House.”
Another White House official told Fox News that Navarro is “going rogue.”
Alyssa Farah, White House director of strategic communications, said on Twitter that the piece “didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone.”
She said Trump “values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration.”
And President Trump on Wednesday said he “gets along very well with Dr. Fauci.”
“I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fauci called the attempts to discredit him “bizarre.”
“Ultimately, it hurts the president to do that,” Fauci told The Atlantic. “When the staff lets out something like that and the entire scientific and press community push back on it, it ultimately hurts the president.”