By Nikhila Natarajan
New York, July 14 (IANS) It’s official. The White House has turned on America’s top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, spraying into public view a longlist of “mistakes” he has made since the COVID-19 pandemic began and seeking to undercut the doctor’s reputation as a trusted voice on public health and exit strategy during a pandemic that has killed over 135,000 Americans.
The White House denied that it is slinging “opposition research” on Fauci’s handling of the coronavirus, hours after multiple media outlets received a White House statement detailing a laundry list of Fauci errors.
On Monday, the White House went on the back foot saying it merely “responded” to questions it received from The Washington Post.
IANS reported last week about the White House’s efforts to sideline Fauci even as it refuses to take a stand on universal masking during an ongoing killer pandemic. The White House West Wing has taken control of Fauci’s media appearances from the US government platform and effectively banished him to the podcast and livestream circuit.
As cases surge to record levels across the southern states, the White House is questioning the “number of times Fauci has been wrong on things”, using long-ago comments from Fauci on the threat level from the virus and the use of masks.
The Fauci versus President Donald Trump battle comes amidst the resurgence of the coronavirus which has ignited fierce debate about whether to reopen schools. Fauci’s view isn’t very different from what he has said from the beginning: Don’t jump over the reopening guidelines. Trump is pushing for an aggressive reopening, sparking alarm across the country and wall to wall coverage in the US media.
Trump is reportedly annoyed with Fauci’s soaring popularity even as his own polls are tanking to new lows in battleground states crucial to his re-election.
Fauci said in a Financial Times interview that he had not briefed Trump in nearly two months.
In multiple polls, Fauci trumps the President in popularity and trust. Since January, Americans’ overall confidence in medical scientists has only grown stronger, reflective of society’s anxieties during an extraordinary time.
“There’s no body count high enough for Donald Trump to listen to the public health experts. If we lose another 10,000, another 20,000, he’s not going to do anything differently,” former US Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters Monday.
“It’s a man-made catastrophe. Don’t listen to Trump. Listen to the local health experts.”
As positions harden all around, Trump’s Twitter thumb is unstoppable.
On Monday morning, he retweeted supporters’ messages lamenting the “most outrageous lies” being spread about the coronavirus pandemic and how the economy is tanking because everyone’s staying indoors.
“Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think ita¿s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.”