On The Trail: Pence's knives come out
White House targets Fauci as virus cases surge
The White House is aiming to discredit Anthony Fauci with a leaked memo citing nearly a dozen comments made by the nation's top infectious diseases expert about the COVID-19 pandemic, according to multiple reports.
The memo, first obtained by The Washington Post, reportedly contains comments Fauci has made publicly about the pandemic that have contradicted information he later shared as the outbreak unfolded.
The White House effort to undermine Fauci, who serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is a member of the White House coronavirus task force, comes as President Trump is downplaying the coronavirus pandemic amid a continued surge across the country.
The document claims that "several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things," according to ABC News.
One example cited in the document includes comments Fauci made on NBC's "Today" in late February that "at this moment, there is no need to change anything you're doing on a day-by-day basis," ABC News reported.
The document, however, doesn't cite Fauci's full comments made on the show, the network notes.
"Right now the risk is still low, but this could change," Fauci also said on "Today" at the time. "When you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread."
The document also targets Fauci's guidance in March that "people should not be walking around with masks," according to NBC News.
A White House official told The Hill there was no memo about Fauci. According to the official, the Post had sent dozens of questions to the White House press office and responses were sent back.
The official said Fauci continues to serve on the White House coronavirus task force and has played a valuable role in working on therapeutics and developing a vaccine.
Trump has publicly made comments criticizing Fauci as well. Last week, the president said in an interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity that Fauci "has made a lot of mistakes."
Fauci, along with other members of the White House coronavirus force, has been making increasingly fewer appearances on major network television. Fauci told the Financial Times in an interview published last week that his reputation for "speaking the truth" may be a reason why.
"I have a reputation, as you probably have figured out, of speaking the truth at all times and not sugar-coating things. And that may be one of the reasons why I haven't been on television very much lately," Fauci said.
He also told the Financial Times that he hasn't seen the president in person since early June.
In the same interview, Fauci directly challenged Trump's claim, which is not backed by evidence, that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are "harmless." The infectious diseases expert said that is "obviously not" the case.
More than 3.3 million coronavirus cases and 135,205 deaths have been reported in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The numbers of cases are still increasing in most states across the U.S., the country with the most reported COVID-19 cases, based on the Johns Hopkins database.