Pence: Fauci a 'valued' member of coronavirus task force

Pence: Fauci a 'valued' member of coronavirus task force
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Vice President Pence on Wednesday called Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci defends voting by mail if 'you don't want to take the chance' in person Museum unveils new Fauci bobbleheads after previous edition sells out Marlee Matlin: 'Unfathomable' that White House doesn't have sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings MORE a “valued” member of the White House coronavirus task force after others in the White House offered public criticism of the top U.S. infectious disease expert.

“Dr. Tony Fauci is a valued member of the White House coronavirus task force. We just completed our latest meeting today, and we couldn't be more grateful for his steady counsel as we continue to meet this moment with a whole of government approach, a whole of America approach,” Pence told reporters on a campaign press call when asked about criticisms of Fauci coming from the administration.

Earlier, Pence, who leads the coronavirus task force, also tweeted a photo of Wednesday’s task force meeting that showed Fauci speaking while the vice president listened on.

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The vice president’s remarks come after White House trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote an extraordinary op-ed late Tuesday questioning Fauci’s credibility and saying that he receives the public health official’s advice “with skepticism and caution."

The White House communications team sought to distance itself from the op-ed, saying it did not undergo normal clearance processes. President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE also offered criticism of Navarro over the move, saying he “shouldn’t” have done it, and said he has a “very good relationship” with Fauci.

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"He made a statement representing himself," Trump told reporters of Navarro before leaving the White House for a trip to Georgia on Wednesday. "He shouldn't be doing that. No, I have a very good relationship with Anthony."

Fauci, who has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for more than 30 years, has faced criticism from others in the White House in recent days as he has offered unvarnished assessments about the threat posed by the novel coronavirus.

Over the weekend, a White House official sent media outlets a list of “mistakes” Fauci has made since the pandemic began, and White House deputy chief of staff and social media director Dan Scavino shared a cartoon mocking Fauci on social media.

In an interview with The Atlantic published Wednesday afternoon, Fauci responded to the recent developments, calling the efforts to discredit him “bizarre” and saying they would only reflect negatively on the White House.

Fauci is one of the core members of the coronavirus task force, which also includes Deborah Birx, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, among others.

Fauci was a regular face at the coronavirus task force briefings before the White House moved to scale them back in May after Trump made controversial comments about the potential use of disinfectant to treat COVID-19.

The infectious disease expert says that, while he used to meet with the president one-on-one often, he hasn’t briefed Trump in two months. He told The Atlantic that his input now reaches Trump through Pence.

Polls show Fauci to be a trusted voice on the coronavirus among the American public, whereas Trump is considerably less trusted.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, 65 percent of Americans say that they trust the information Fauci provides on the coronavirus, whereas only 30 percent say they trust the information offered by Trump.

– Naomi Jagoda contributed reporting.