White House adviser Peter Navarro speaks to reporters outside the West Wing in Washington, U.S. July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro authored a highly critical opinion on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s work in a USA Today article on Tuesday, prompting a flurry of back and forth between the Trump administration, federal authorities and reporters.

Navarro in his guest column alleges that, contrary to Dr. Fauci’s assertions, Fauci supported President Trump’s decision to restrict travel from China. The column links to a fact-checking article in The Dispatch, which appears to contradict Navarro’s claim. Political pundit Ramesh PonnuruIt questioned on Twitter whether the article was linked by Navarro or by an editor for USA Today, moving the Trump administration to distance itself from the piece. Alyssa Farah, director of strategic communications for the White House, said in a Tweet that the op-ed was not approved through usual White House clearances. Despite going “rogue” against the administration, Navarro has not yet received any disciplinary action.

In the last four days, the administration has attempted to weaken Dr. Fauci’s stance in four different instances in a continued campaign of contradictions that started as early as March. Although the president said Monday that he had a “very good relationship” with Dr. Fauci, he noted that the two don’t always agree. Dr. Fauci responded to the statement in an NBC interview, telling the public they generally can trust “respected medical authorities.” President Trump has not met with Dr. Fauci since June 2.

On Sunday, the White House sent a statement on background to reporters with a list of the “number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things” during the pandemic. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied accusations that the move was a distribution of “opposition research” to reporters by the administration. Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino posted a political cartoon depicting Dr. Fauci as the cause of “sinking” the economy. The White House allegedly blocked most of Dr. Fauci’s recent television appearances, though three appearances were approved by the White House Communications team. That was prior to a Facebook Live event in which Dr. Fauci disputed President Trump’s claim that the U.S.’s lower death rate was a sign of progress. 

Some Republicans split from the administration regarding Dr. Fauci in recent days. The Lincoln project, an Anti-Trump Republican Super PAC, released an ad Wednesday asking Americans if they trust Dr. Fauci or President Trump regarding the pandemic. In defense of Dr. Fauci on Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC,  said, “I think any effort to undermine him is not going to be productive, quite frankly.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Wednesday that his level of confidence in Dr. Fauci was “total.” Both Senators are notable supporters of President Trump. In a New York Times poll from late June, voters that trusted Dr. Fauci’s information about the coronavirus were more than double those who trusted President Trump’s information.

Source: New York Times

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Public battle still rages between White House and Fauci – CNN – 7/15/2020
The public battle between President Donald Trump’s economic and medical advisers stretched into another day after Peter Navarro, the senior White House trade official, apparently broke protocol by publishing an opinion article trashing Dr. Anthony Fauci late Tuesday. The White House communications office insisted Navarro did not clear his article through them before it was published in USA Today. But the sentiment he expressed — that Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, had been wrong on multiple occasions during the pandemic — was the same one White House officials espoused over the weekend when they questioned his record to reporters.

Peter Navarro: Dr. Anthony Fauci Was Wrong During Coronavirus Fight – Breitbart – 7/15/2020
White House Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro unleashed an op-ed on Wednesday criticizing Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci. “So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution,” Navarro concluded after detailing a list of his concerns with Fauci in an op-ed titled “Anthony Fauci Has Been Wrong About Everything I Have Interacted with Him On” in USA Today.

This Time, the White House Disavows a Fauci Critic – The New York Times – 7/15/2020
Tension between Mr. Navarro, an economist by training, and Dr. Fauci has been brewing for months. In a coronavirus task force meeting that Mr. Navarro asked to attend earlier this year, the two argued over the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, a drug Mr. Trump has touted as a cure for the virus. Mr. Navarro’s op-ed broadly lays out what White House officials have been saying privately about Dr. Fauci, and what Mr. Trump has said publicly — that they like Dr. Fauci personally but that he has “made some mistakes.”

Peter Navarro Ignored Guidelines Before Roasting Fauci In Op-Ed, White House Claims – Daily Caller – 7/15/2020
The White House is claiming Trump’s Economic Advisor Peter Navarro did not go through the typical clearance process before publishing an op-ed roasting COVID-19 task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday. […] Navarro’s retells a series of instances in which he and Fauci were at odds when it came to the severity of or the response to COVID-19. He argues Fauci was wrong in each instance. Navarro did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller about whether he cleared the op-ed with the White House.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Tim O’Brien on Twitter, 7/14/2020: Here is Peter Navarro, who has no experience in immunology, launching an ad hominem against Dr. Fauci, who does. This is a broken White House, at odds with itself.

Alyssa Farah on Twitter, 7/15/2020: The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone. @realDonaldTrump values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration.

Dr. David Samadi on Twitter, 7/15/2020: Peter Navarro has the right to have an opinion on Dr. Anthony Fauci as we all do. Dr. Fauci is not above reproach and not above criticism.

Kyle Griffin on Twitter, 7/15/2020: If the Peter Navarro op-ed “didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes,” as the White House claims, will Navarro be punished? Is there any reason to believe that Navarro acted completely outside normal channels if he is not then reprimanded for attacking Dr. Fauci?

Steve Milloy on Twitter, 7/15/2020: Kudos to @PeterNavarro45. Fauci has been wrong from the start. He is no expert when it comes to how to manage #coronavirus. We listen to him at our peril. via @usatoday

Bradley P. Moss on Twitter, 7/15/2020: If Navarro isn’t fired by COB today, you can take it as proof of an implicit (if not explicit) endorsement by the president of his actions posting that trash op-ed.

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