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Anthony Fauci rebukes Trump administration’s efforts to discredit him: ‘It’s nonsense’

President Trump and Anthony Fauci.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci on Wednesday sharply criticized the Trump administration’s efforts to discredit him, delivering an unusual rebuke to the administration and urging top officials to focus on the pandemic.

In an interview with The Atlantic magazine, Fauci pushed back on the recent claims made by anonymous White House staffers that he was wrong during the early stages of the crisis.

“It’s nonsense. It’s completely wrong. The whole thing is wrong. The whole thing is incorrect,” he said.

He also said he told White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during a recent meeting that attacks on him ultimately hurt the president.

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“I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that. I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them,” Fauci told the Atlantic in a series of interviews published on Wednesday.

Fauci emphasized public officials should be focused on figuring out how to slow the spread of the coronavirus as several states see a record number of case.

“When you look at the numbers, obviously, we’ve got to do better. We’ve got to almost reset this and say, ‘Okay, let’s stop this nonsense.' We’ve got to figure out, how can we get our control over this now, and, looking forward, how can we make sure that next month, we don’t have another example of California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona? So rather than these games people are playing, let’s focus on that,” he said.

Over the weekend, White House aides anonymously provided details to various news outlets about statements Fauci had made early in the coronavirus outbreak that they said were inaccurate. The extraordinary move was akin to treating Fauci, the long-time director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as if he were Trump’s political rival.

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Trump also openly criticized Fauci last week, saying, “Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.”

The White House on Wednesday was also working to distance itself from a USA Today op-ed written by trade adviser Peter Navarro that called Fauci, the nation’s highest-ranking infectious disease expert, “wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.”

In the short op-ed published on Tuesday, Navarro used a series of out-of-context quotes from Fauci to cast himself and the Trump administration as early to act on the coronavirus threat while being hamstrung by a hesitant Fauci.

“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.

In one example, Navarro wrote that Fauci had dismissed the coronavirus threat in mid-February as “low risk,” but left out the rest of his comment.

“The risk right now, today, currently, is really relatively low for the American public. But that could change because [of] what’s going on outside the United States,” Fauci said in a Feb. 17 interview with USA Today. “This could evolve into a global pandemic which would then have significant implications for us.”

Trump on Wednesday suggested he didn’t agree with the op-ed when asked about it by reporters.

“Well he made a statement representing himself. He shouldn’t be doing that. No, I have a very good relationship with Anthony,” he said, according to a pool report.

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In a tweet Wednesday morning, White House Director of Strategic Communications Alyssa Farah said the op-ed “didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone.”

The New York Times reported earlier this week that Fauci had not had direct contact with Trump in more than a month.

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.