Jul 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Fauci says White House effort to discredit him is "bizarre"

Fauci
Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci told The Atlantic on Wednesday that efforts by certain White House officials to discredit him are "bizarre" and that it "ultimately hurts the president" to undermine a top health official in the middle of a pandemic.

Driving the news: Fauci's comments come on the heels of a USA Today op-ed by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who claimed that Fauci has been "wrong about everything" related to the coronavirus that the two have interacted on. Fauci told The Atlantic: “I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself.”

  • A number of news outlets also received quotes and documents over the weekend from anonymous officials claiming Fauci was "wrong about things" in the early days of the pandemic. Several quotes omitted the nuance and caution that Fauci had attached to his statements.
  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany denies there's been a coordinated effort to discredit Fauci, and the White House said Wednesday that Navarro's op-ed "didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes."

What he's saying: "I stand by everything I said. Contextually, at the time I said it, it was absolutely true … [The White House document] is totally wrong. It’s nonsense," Fauci told The Atlantic.

  • Asked how he can work when elements of his own government are attempting to discredit him, Fauci said, "Well, that is a bit bizarre. ... I sit here and just shrug my shoulders and say, 'Well, you know, that’s life in the fast lane.'"
  • "I think if you sit down and talk to the people who are involved in that list that came out, they are really, I think, taken aback by what a big mistake that was," he continued.
  • "I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that. I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them."

Fauci said that he met Monday with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and told him: "When the staff lets out something like that and the entire scientific and press community push back on it, it ultimately hurts the president. And I don’t really want to hurt the president."

  • Fauci said that Meadows told him he hadn't known about it and did not offer an apology.

The bottom line: Fauci maintained that he has no plans to resign, telling The Atlantic: "I think the problem is too important for me to get into those kinds of thoughts and discussions. I just want to do my job. I’m really good at it. I think I can contribute. And I’m going to keep doing it."

Go deeper: Trump says Navarro shouldn't have written op-ed attacking Fauci

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