WHITE HOUSE - President Donald Trump reiterated Monday that he has “a very good relationship” with Dr. Anthony Fauci despite weekend media reports that showed the administration undercutting one of the most prominent members of its coronavirus task force.
Trump was asked by reporters about the physician during a White House event focused on law enforcement. While the president has previously commented favorably on his relationship with Fauci, Monday he said, “I don’t always agree with him.”
Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is on the White House task force responding to COVID-19, the disease resulting from the virus that has infected millions of Americans and shows no signs of abating.
At a media briefing earlier Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked about a statement that Peter Navarro, a trade adviser to the president, sent to The Washington Post and published in an article July 11 that asserted Fauci “has a good bedside manner with the public but he has been wrong about everything I have ever interacted with him on.”
Other media organizations characterized the statement by Navarro as campaign-style opposition research.
“There's no opposition research being dumped to reporters,” McEnany said. “We were asked a very specific question by The Washington Post. And that question was President Trump noted that Dr. Fauci had made some mistakes and we provided a direct answer to what was a direct question.”
The Post article also noted that Fauci and Trump last spoke during the first week in June.
Trump has repeatedly sought to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic while Fauci has not.
“It's a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Fauci said last week. "There's so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus, don't get yourself into false complacency."
The president has also cast doubt on some of the public safety measures advocated by Fauci and other health professionals.
“They ought to show us their medical licenses; they don't have them,” said Congressman Ami Berra, a physician, of Trump and Navarro. “Right now, the emperor has no clothes. And this is a time when we need real leadership, and we're not going to see it from President Trump.”
“The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust,” claimed a tweet from a former TV game show host, Chuck Woolery, that Trump retweeted.
McEnany, when asked about the president spreading that assertion, said: “The president, with his intent in that retweet, expresses displeasure with the CDC, some rogue individuals leaking guidelines prematurely. You had a 63-page plan that was leaked prematurely.”
Last week, Trump said he thought the CDC’s guidelines for schools reopening were too tough, impractical and expensive.
“Schools should be opened,” Trump again said Monday. “You’re losing a lot of lives by keeping things closed.”
The two largest school districts in California, Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified, jointly announced Monday they will conduct instruction only online when classes begin next month, because of a resurgence of the virus.
The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, also is ordering indoor restaurant dining to be halted again statewide, and in the more populous regions, gyms, salons and other businesses will be closed, and religious services halted.
Berra, who represents in Congress the suburbs of Sacramento, which is California’s capital, told VOA that if the president is not going to lead, “we've got to work directly with the states and the governors to make sure they get the best information.”
The congressman said that includes sharing information from countries, such as South Korea and Singapore, “that have done a better job of managing the virus.”
McEnany, on Monday, said the United States has demonstrated it is the world leader in responding to COVID-19.
“The press secretary is living in fantasy land, and President Trump is not facing the reality his administration has badly failed here,” said Berra, the former chief medical officer of Sacramento County. “It's led to over 135,000 deaths of Americans – more cases than anywhere else in the world. Magical thinking won't make this virus go away.”