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Fauci says 'bizarre' efforts to discredit him only hurt the White House

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Overnight Health Care: Biden team to begin getting COVID briefings | Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on Biden's COVID task force | Major glove factories close after thousands test positive for COVID-19 Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on a Biden coronavirus task force MORE said the efforts to discredit him by some in the Trump administration are “bizarre” and a poor reflection of the president. 

In an interview with The Atlantic published Wednesday, the nation's top infectious diseases expert responded to news that the White House sent out a memo over the weekend detailing “wrong” statements he had made about the pandemic. 

“I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that,” Fauci said. “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them."

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Fauci's remarks about the pandemic and guidance on steps Americans should take have shifted since the beginning of the outbreak as experts learn more about the novel virus. The memo, for example, pointed to comments Fauci made in March that healthy people should not be wearing masks. However, that was before it was known COVID-19 could be spread by individuals who aren’t showing symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Fauci now recommend everyone wears masks. 

“I stand by everything I said," Fauci told The Atlantic. "Contextually, at the time I said it, it was absolutely true.”

Fauci has advised six presidents on HIV/AIDs, Ebola, Zika and other infectious diseases. As the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, he has been advising the Trump administration on COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic.

But as Trump’s comments on the pandemic grow rosier, Fauci has sounded the alarm on increases in cases across the south and west, at times directly contradicting the president. 

Asked how Fauci works under an administration in which some are trying to discredit him, he said, "Well, that is a bit bizarre. ... I sit here and just shrug my shoulders and say, 'Well, you know, that’s life in the fast lane.'”

He said the people involved with the memo realize what a “big mistake” it was. 

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“I think if you talk to reasonable people in the White House, they realize that was a major mistake on their part, because it doesn’t do anything but reflect poorly on them. And I don’t think that that was their intention. I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that,” he said.

Peter Navarro, Trump’s top trade adviser, had an op-ed published in USA Today on Tuesday that characterized Fauci as “wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.” 

Navarro had also made critical comments about Fauci in the past. 

“I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself. So I don’t even want to go there,” Fauci said in the interview. 

Fauci said he told Trump’s chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE that the memo was “not particularly a good thing to do.” 

“When the staff lets out something like that and the entire scientific and press community push back on it, it ultimately hurts the president. And I don’t really want to hurt the president. But that’s what’s happening. I told him I thought it was a big mistake. That doesn’t serve any good purpose for what we’re trying to do,” he said. 

Asked if he has thought of resigning, Fauci said no. 

“I think the problem is too important for me to get into those kinds of thoughts and discussions. I just want to do my job. I’m really good at it. I think I can contribute. And I’m going to keep doing it,” he said.