White House lashes out at Fauci, accuses him of 'playing politics' after he offered a bleak assessment of the US coronavirus response

By Connor Perrett

The White House on Sunday offered a stern rebuke of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading coronavirus expert in the US, after he warned that the US needed to change its coronavirus mitigation strategies. 

"It's unacceptable and breaking all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the president's coronavirus task force and someone who has praised President Trump's actions throughout the pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics," White House spokesperson Judd Deere said in a statement Sunday.

"As a member of the task force, Dr. Fauci has a duty to express concerns of the push for a change in strategy, but he's not done that, instead choosing to criticize the president in the media and make his political leanings known by praising the president's opponent," Deere added.

The White House comments follow those made by Fauci in an interview with The Washington Post, published Saturday.

"We're in for a whole lot of hurt. It's not a good situation," Fauci told The Washington Post an interview conducted Friday. "All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly."

Fauci's comments came as the US, for the first time since the outset of the pandemic, reported nearly 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day. While some states have issued new measures to combat the increased spread of COVID-19 — like new travel restrictions announced in New York on Saturday — Trump has continued to falsely blame the rise in cases to a rise in testing and media coverage.

In the weekend interview, Fauci called for an "abrupt change" in the way the US attempts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, warning that daily new cases in the US could begin to surpass 100,000 without a new strategy. He also told The Washington Post that Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden had been "taking it seriously from a public health perspective." 

Trump, on the other hand, is prioritizing "the economy and reopening the country," Fauci told The Washington Post.

"Dr. Fauci may have just admitted that he is afraid the cure will be worse than the disease and that unlike the president, he has no confidence in the American people to make the best choice for themselves armed with CDC best practices," Deere said Sunday.

Fauci had been at the forefront of the White House coronavirus response at the beginning of the pandemic, but his involvement with the president's strategy seemed to wane as the president has previously broken with him and his recommendations. Fauci said Friday that "the public health aspect of the task force has diminished greatly." 

"People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots," Trump said, reportedly during a campaign call in October, calling the public health expert a "disaster."