White House distances itself from Navarro op-ed bashing Fauci

The White House on Wednesday distanced itself from an op-ed by trade adviser Peter Navarro questioning the credibility of Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's 12:30 Report: White House, Dems debate coronavirus relief package Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day Fauci: It's 'entirely conceivable' we could be 'way down' on level of cases by November MORE, the government's top infectious diseases expert.

"The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone," White House director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah tweeted. "@realDonaldTrump values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration." 

The tweet underscores the disarray in the White House as some officials publicly criticize Fauci, who is a member of the coronavirus task force guiding the administration's decisionmaking amid the pandemic.

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Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday denied that there was "opposition research" being disseminated about Fauci or that there was a rift between the doctor and President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE.

But on Tuesday night, an op-ed from Navarro was published in USA Today that called into question Fauci's expertise on the pandemic in the most direct criticism from a White House official to date.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public, but he has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on," Navarro wrote.

Navarro cited Fauci's past comments on the use of masks, the need for Americans to alter their every day lives and hydroxychloroquine.

Fauci's guidance on masks and for how Americans needed to change their daily habits shifted as experts learned more about the virus and the level of asymptomatic transmission. The doctor has been skeptical about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that Navarro and Trump have pushed despite the Food and Drug Administration warning of dangerous side effects.

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Tensions between White House officials and Fauci have spilled into the open in recent days, despite Trump insisting he has a good relationship with the doctor.

Dan Scavino, deputy chief of staff for communications, shared a cartoon on his Facebook page late Sunday that depicted Fauci as a faucet flushing the U.S. economy down the drain with overzealous health guidance to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration's testing czar, said he respects Fauci but that the doctor is focused narrowly on public health in his guidance and is not always right.

Attempts to undermine a respected public health official who has served in his position for more than 40 years is notable, particularly given the administration has struggled to get new outbreaks of the coronavirus under control.

Most states are seeing increases in case numbers and the percentage of people testing positive for the virus, with Arizona, Florida and California setting records in recent days. More than 136,000 Americans have died of the virus to date.