The White House has sent reporters at several mainstream media organizations a lengthy list of comments Dr. Anthony Fauci made early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, in an apparent push to undermine the nation's top federal infectious disease expert after he publicly disagreed with President Trump's optimistic assessment of the growing outbreak in the U.S. An unidentified White House official told The Washington Post, CNN, and other news organizations over the weekend that "several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things."
The list includes comments Fauci made as early as January that, while reflecting the scientific thinking on the new coronavirus at the time, are now believed to be incorrect. In some cases, they truncated his comments to leave off warnings about the disease. The White House is essentially treating Fauci "as if he were a warring political rival," The New York Times reports, and the list of his comments is "laid out in the style of a campaign's opposition research document." The bullet points "resembled opposition research on a political opponent," CNN concurs. The list was also sent to NBC News.
Fauci and Trump have never seen eye-to-eye on the disease, and their early apparent rapport has publicly frayed; the Times says the split widened when Fauci dismissed the efficacy of Trump's favored treatment, hydroxychloroquine, while the Post adds in policy disagreements over face masks and reopening businesses and schools. "Trump is also galled by Fauci's approval ratings," the Post reports, noting a recent Times/Siena College poll showing 67 percent of voters trusting Fauci on the pandemic versus 26 percent who trusted Trump.
A senior administration official told CNN some White House officials don't trust Fauci because they don't think he has Trump's best interests in mind, pointing to statements were he publicly disagreed with Trump.
After CBS's Margaret Brennan noted last Sunday that Face the Nation had tried unsuccessfully to book Fauci for three months, White House communications officials — who, along with Michael Caputo, a Trump ally and Roger Stone friend who runs communications at the Department of Health and Human Services, have to approve all coronavirus-related TV appearances — agreed to book Fauci on PBS NewsHour, CNN, and NBC's Meet the Press, the Post reports. After Fauci disputed Trump's "false narrative" about falling mortality rates on Facebook Live, those appearances were all canceled.