The White House has distanced itself from presidential adviser Peter Navarro, who criticized the nation’s top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci in a recent newspaper op-ed over the latter handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the op-ed published in USA Today on Tuesday, Navarro scathingly criticized Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, saying the latter “has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on”, reports Xinhua news agency.
“So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with scepticism and caution,” Navarro wrote in the op-ed.
On Wednesday, Alyssa Farah, White House director of strategic communications, said that the West Wing’s press shop had not approved the explosive column by Navarro, who is the director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy.
“The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone,” Farah said in a tweet, adding that President Donald Trump “values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his administration”.
Trump, for his part, expressed his dissatisfaction with Navarro over the article, telling reporters that the adviser “made a statement representing himself”.
“He shouldn’t be doing that. We’re all on the same team, including Dr. Fauci,” Trump said as he departed the White House for Georgia.
Responding to Navarro’s attacks, Fauci said: “I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself. So I don’t even want to go there.”
According to a report in Politico, Fauci and Navarro engaged in another high-profile clash in April over the efficacy of the anti-malarial medication hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.
Navarro had promoted the drug despite Fauci’s concerns regarding its safety, dragging their disagreement onto cable news.
Prior to the publication of his op-ed, Navarro issued nearly identical criticism of Fauci to The Washington Post in a story on July 11 that documented the White House’s own covert bid to discredit the doctor.