CNN's Burnett presses Navarro on hydroxychloroquine in combative interview: 'You're an economist, not a scientist'

CNN’s Erin Burnett pressed White House trade adviser Peter Navarro over his support for hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus despite public health experts, including several within the White House, stating that the anti-malaria drug is not effective at treating COVID-19. 

In the combative Wednesday interview, Navarro continued to push the drug as a coronavirus treatment, dismissing contradictory comments made by the nation’s top public health expert and White House coronavirus task force member Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: US coronavirus deaths hit 200,000 | Ginsburg's death puts future of ObamaCare at risk | Federal panel delays vote on initial COVID-19 vaccine distribution White House seeks to change subject from 200K COVID-19 deaths Putin calls on UN to strengthen World Health Organization MORE

“Tony is a great guy. There's just disagreements on things like, for example, hydroxychloroquine. He has a strong point of view. There's as many doctors on the other side,” Navarro said on CNN’s “OutFront,” referring to Fauci. 

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“But there aren’t,” Burnett responded. 

“Peter, first of all, on a basic level, you're an economist, not a scientist,” she added.

Navarro tried to shift the conversation, telling Burnett it is “past time for us to have a debate about hydroxychloroquine,” but Burnett said she needed to discuss it because Navarro’s comments were “irresponsible.” 

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Navarro responded by referencing a video posted by Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind Dilbert, that attacks CNN over its coverage of the anti-malaria drug as a coronavirus treatment. 

“He did a beautiful video on Twitter, and the thesis of the video is that CNN might be killing thousands because of the way they’ve treated that. I’ll let Scott Adams be my defense on this,” Navarro said. 

“I find that to be offensive because he's a comic strip writer,” Burnett responded. 

She noted that in addition to Fauci, Deborah BirxDeborah BirxControversial CDC guidelines were written by HHS officials, not scientists: report Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers Trump disputes CDC director on vaccine timing, says 'he made a mistake' MORE — the coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus response — and Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir have made comments contradicting those of Navarro. She also said that the matter should be left to scientists and that Navarro should not be involved. 

The White House adviser said he got involved because, as Defense Production Act coordinator, “I’m literally sitting on 63 million tablets” of the drug, which he said could help millions of Americans. 

“If I'm wrong about hydroxychloroquine and people use it, nobody is going to die if they use it under a physician's guidance. But if Giroir, Fauci and all the rest of them who say hydroxy can hurt you or doesn't work, if they're wrong in a month, then thousands of people died on their watch,” Navarro said. 

Fauci for months has been disputing claims that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19. 

"Clearly the scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it," Fauci said in an interview with CNN in May. 

At the time, he added that evidence showed the likelihood that the drug could cause severe irregular heart rhythms. 

Giroir, the White House coronavirus testing czar, said on Sunday that he can’t recommend the drug to treat COVID-19. He said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the drug “looked very promising” at first but that studies have since found it does not help COVID-19 patients.