Democrats hit Trump over Fauci crit­i­cism

Poll: More peo­ple trust doc­tor than pres­i­dent

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - David Jack­son and John Fritze Con­tribut­ing: John Ba­con, Ni­cholas Wu, Palm Springs Desert Sun

WASH­ING­TON – Democrats are seiz­ing on a grow­ing rift be­tween the White House and Dr. An­thony Fauci as aides seek to ex­plain why Pres­i­dent Donald Trump is bat­tling with the na­tion’s top in­fec­tious disease ex­pert dur­ing the wors­en­ing coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

As cases of the virus surge in large swaths of the coun­try and the na­tion’s most pop­u­lous state re­versed course on re­open­ing in­door busi­nesses, Trump has in­sisted he has a “very good re­la­tion­ship” with Fauci, the di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases, but also says, “I don’t al­ways agree with him.”

As Trump and aides such as press sec­re­tary Kayleigh McE­nany have dis­missed ques­tions about in­ter­nal fric­tion be­tween the White House and Fauci, oth­ers within the pres­i­dent’s or­bit be­gan openly air­ing their crit­i­cism.

“Dr. Fauci has a good bed­side man­ner with the pub­lic but he has been wrong about ev­ery­thing I have in­ter­acted with him on,” said Peter Navarro, a trade ad­viser who is close to the pres­i­dent and who claimed Fauci had down­played the risks of the virus, “flip-flopped” on masks, and “was telling the me­dia not to worry” this year.

“So when you ask me if I lis­ten to Dr. Fauci’s ad­vice, my an­swer is only with cau­tion,” Navarro added.

Fauci’s sup­port­ers said his com­ments were be­ing taken out of con­text, and that he made many of them early this year when lit­tle was known about the virus.

Mean­while, through­out the pan­demic Trump has made a se­ries of in­cor­rect state­ments and pre­dic­tions about the coro­n­avirus. Early on, he com­pared it to the flu, say­ing it might “mirac­u­lously” dis­ap­pear. More re­cently, Trump has in­cor­rectly blamed the rise in COVID-19 cases solely on in­creased test­ing. Trump claimed this month that 99% of coro­n­avirus cases are “harm­less” – an as­ser­tion at odds with a wide ar­ray of data on death rates and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions.

More than two thirds of Amer­i­cans said they trust Fauci on the virus, ac­cord­ing to a New York Times poll con­ducted by Siena Col­lege last month. That was vastly larger than the 26% who said they trusted Trump on that is­sue. Democrats – in­clud­ing Joe Bi­den, the party’s pre­sump­tive pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee – were quick to draw the dis­tinc­tion.

“Donald Trump needs to spend less time play­ing golf and more time lis­ten­ing to ex­perts like Dr. Fauci,” Bi­den posted on Twit­ter.

“The truth is, this coun­try needs Dr. An­thony Fauci,” tweeted Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “These at­tacks are un­fair; we should be lis­ten­ing to health ex­perts and fol­low­ing the science.”

Muriel Bowser, the Demo­cratic mayor of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and a fre­quent critic of the pres­i­dent, also weighed in on the dis­pute.

“In Fauci we trust,” she posted on Twit­ter. “Mask on, DC.”

To­tal con­firmed cases of coro­n­avirus have sur­passed 3.3 mil­lion and more than 135,000 Amer­i­cans have died, ac­cord­ing to Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity. Florida re­ported a record 132 ad­di­tional COVID-19 re­lated deaths Tues­day, sur­pass­ing the pre­vi­ous high of 120 set July 9.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP VIA GETTY IM­AGES

Pres­i­dent Donald Trump at­tends a brief­ing in April with Dr. An­thony Fauci.

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