The White House slammed Anthony Fauci after the nation’s leading infectious disease expert ramped up criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, predicted in a Washington Post interview published Saturday night that the U.S. is “in for a whole lot of hurt” from the Covid-19 pandemic, and forecast a rising death toll over the winter.
Fauci also said he has “real problems” with Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who’s become President Donald Trump’s favored pandemic adviser in recent months.
“It’s unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the President’s Coronavirus Taskforce and someone who has praised President Trump’s actions throughout this pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.
The White House attacked Fauci for giving credit to Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential campaign for “taking it seriously from a public health perspective.” Trump is “looking at it from a different perspective” that is “the economy and reopening the country,” Fauci told the Post.
Deere said Fauci was “choosing to criticize the president in the media and make his political leanings known by praising the president’s opponent — exactly what the American people have come to expect from The Swamp.”
Trump himself has increasingly taken aim at Fauci. The president last month labeled Fauci, 79, who is nonpartisan and has served in his role since 1984, a “Democrat,” but said he would keep him around because firing him would generate more controversy.
The White House’s sharp criticism of Fauci could feed the notion that Trump is downplaying the pandemic, which has hurt the president’s standing among voters, according to opinion polls.
More than 9.1 million people in the U.S. have been infected by the coronavirus and over 230,000 people have died — making the U.S. the site of the worst recorded outbreak in the world. The nation had 99,000 cases on Friday, hitting a new daily record just four days before Election Day.
Trump resumed massive rallies in the final stretch of the campaign, including five planned for Sunday alone, defying Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that recommend Americans avoid large crowds.
Fauci said in the interview that the country needed to make an “abrupt change” in abiding by public-health measures, or else the number of cases could reach more than 100,000 per day.
”We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation,” Fauci told the Post. “All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”
“Dr. Fauci may have just admitted that he is afraid the cure will be worse than the disease and that unlike the president he has no confidence in the American people to make the best choice for themselves armed with CDC best practices,” Deere said.
In the interview, Fauci also criticized Atlas for lacking the expertise necessary to give Trump informed advice. Atlas has invoked controversial theories about the coronavirus, such as claiming that much of the country is immune due to exposure to other viruses. Epidemiologists say there’s no evidence to support his claims.
“He’s a smart guy who’s talking about things that I believe he doesn’t have any real insight or knowledge or experience in,” Fauci said of Atlas. “He keeps talking about things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Atlas responded to Fauci Saturday night on Twitter.
(Updates with details on Fauci from third paragraph.)