That is what happened on Tuesday when Peter Navarro attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci in USA Today and wrote that Fauci “has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.”
It is Peter Navarro with a doctorate in economics who is the best trade adviser to President Donald Trump. Navarro’s skeptical views on free trade are largely rejected by most economists. And without any medical expertise, he is the one who criticizes Dr. Fauci for his advice on the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Fauci has served six US presidents as their best expert on infectious diseases.
Navarro says that Fauci opposed the decision to restrict travel from China earlier this year, and in Navarro̵
7;s USA Today piece, he provided a link that strongly supported this claim. But the link provided in his USA Today update actually shows that while Fauci had first warned against reducing travel from China, in late January, Fauci was one of the key public health officials who advocated for a skeptical President Trump to do just that. Trump then implemented.
Navarro correctly pointed out that Fauci initially told the American public that the risk of the virus was “low”. Then Fauci spoke in mid-February which seemed to be a reasonable point since there were only 15 cases in the United States. According to John Hopkins University, there are currently about 3.5 million cases in the United States and Fauci – which has been largely blocked by the White House from appearing on television in recent months – has warned elsewhere that there could be as many as 100 000 new cases a day in the United States.
This has not made Fauci the taste of the month in the White House, which follows President Trump’s leadership to erroneously claim that everything is huge on the Covid-19 front.
In his op-ed, Navarro accuses Fauci of “tipping over the use of masks”, but in fact when Fauci warned the public not to wear masks this was early in the pandemic and in connection with ensuring that masks – then deficient – went to the front line of health workers rather than being hoarded by ordinary Americans.
Navarro’s USA Today upp-ed linked to a story that made just this point and undermines Navarro’s own argument that Fauci tipped on masks rather than just giving his best advice on public health – which has evolved as the situation has evolved.
Navarro also says Fauci was wrong about the effect of Trump’s “game changer” drug, hydroxychloroquine, to fight Covid-19, citing “a new study from Detroit Hospital showed a 50% reduction in mortality when used with early treatment. . ”
But there are a number of studies that contradict the Detroit study. They include a study of more than 1,400 patients with Covid-19 in New York, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May, which found that hydroxychloroquine did not benefit coronavirus patients and actually significantly increased their risk of cardiac arrest.
A separate study from the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that hydroxychloroquine neither helped nor harmed 1,376 patients admitted to a New York hospital between March 7 and April 8.
USA Today even attached a note to Navarro’s op-ed, noting the troublesome fact that “the Food and Drug Administration has revoked its approval to treat COVID-19 with hydroxychloroquine.”
Navarro also called on Fauci to say “a declining mortality rate does not matter when it is the single most important statistic that helps control the pace of our economic reopening.”
Of course, the rising rates of infection we have seen this month in 40 out of 50 states will surely drive up the mortality rate, as there is usually a delay of many weeks between an initial infection and those who eventually die of the disease, and the declining mortality rate today is a reflection of measures at home and perhaps better informed medical care than has been the case in recent months, not that the coronavirus has suddenly decided to take a summer break.
In a note published after Navarro’s work first appeared, USA Today editor-in-chief Bill Sternberg acknowledged problems with it: “Several of Navarro’s criticisms of Fauci – of China’s restrictions, the risk of coronavirus and declining mortality – were misleading or incoherent. As such, the Navarro thesis did not meet US TODAY’s fact checking standards. “
The attacks on Fauci by Navarro are symptomatic of a deep problem in the Trump administration that begins with Trump himself, which is to prioritize wishful thinking over science. And instead of providing some element of national leadership to fight the coronavirus, the Trump White House is using the oldest political trick in the book, which is to shoot the messenger who brings unwanted news, in this case a 79-year-old doctor whom 67% of the public trusts to give them accurate information about the virus as opposed to only 26% for Trump, according to a survey by the New York Times / Siena College last month.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Wednesday that Navarro’s op-ed was an “independent action that was a violation of the well-established protocol that was not openly or secretly supported.”
Yep, that fully explains why the White House over the weekend provided a background report to reporters who scored much the same points as Navarro did in his update on Fauci’s alleged errors. This White House seems to believe that Americans have the historic recall of gnats.
In an interview published on Wednesday, Fauci told The Atlantic Magazine about Trump White House’s efforts to discredit him, “I can not find out in my wildest dreams why they want to do it … I think they now realize that it was not a careful thing to do, because it only reflects negatively on them. “Fauci added:” I can not explain Peter Navarro. He is himself in a world. ”