Fauci Says It's 'Beyond My Comprehension' Why Navarro Wrote Critical Op-Ed

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert and member of the White House coronavirus task force, has said it is beyond his comprehension why President Donald Trump's top trade adviser Peter Navarro attacked him in an opinion piece earlier in the week.

In an interview on Friday, PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff asked Fauci about the health of his relationship with the White House, amid reports that it is attempting to undermine him.

On Wednesday, White House trade adviser Peter Navvaro wrote an op-ed in USA Today titled "Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on." The White House later tried to distance itself from the piece. Bill Sternberg, USA Today editorial page editor, later added a note to the article stating it did not meet the newspaper's fact-checking standards because several criticisms of Fauci were "were misleading or lacked context."

A day later, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Fauci was "irresponsible" to suggest the COVID-19 pandemic could reach the levels of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. The White House also reportedly circulated a memo questioning Fauci's expertise which was leaked to news outlets, prompting the White House press secretary to deny that opposition research on Fauci had been dumped to the media.

Woodruff asked, "Are you convinced that the White House is not trying to discredit you, Dr. Fauci?"

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said, "I think you have got to be careful when you say the White House." Fauci said he didn't believe the White House "in general" was trying to and "certainly" not the president or Meadows.

"What happened with Peter Navarro and that editorial, I can't even comment on that. That just is beyond my comprehension why he did that," said Fauci. "But I do not believe that the White House is trying to discredit me."

Fauci said he didn't believe Meadows was calling him an irresponsible person, rather "referring to his concern that there was going to be some misunderstanding," he said.

"I don't have a problem with that. Mark and I are on very good terms," Fauci said.

Asked if he believed he had the full backing and support of the White House, from the president down, Fauci said: "I do. I believe I do. I spoke to the president about that."

At the start of the pandemic, Fauci would often appear alongside Trump at the daily White House coronavirus task force press briefings. But a person with knowledge of Trump's calendar told The Washington Posthe hadn't briefed the president since the first week of June.

Fauci told PBS he believed his public appearances had been limited in order to prevent "different messages getting out."

The public health expert also addressed other matters related to COVID-19 in the interview, such as vaccines.

Echoing comments he made in other recent interviews, Fauci said he was "optimistic" a COVID-19 vaccine will be ready by the end of this calendar year and the start of 2021. He said the vaccine wouldn't be available to hundreds of millions of Americans immediately, but said manufacturers are creating doses before they know vaccines are effective to speed up the process.

"We think we can start getting doses in the beginning of 2021. And the companies have said hundreds of millions of doses within that year. So it's not going to be from day one, but it will be quick," he said.

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.

anthony fauci, getty
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on June 30, 2020. AL DRAGO/AFP via Getty Images