US President Donald Trump has issued a rare reprimand of his senior adviser Peter Navarro over a withering opinion piece about Anthony Fauci, a top government coronavirus expert.
Mr Navarro, a trade adviser who at times has expanded his reach within the Trump White House, launched the attack on Dr Fauci in an article for USA Today.
“Dr Anthony Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public, but he has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” Mr Navarro wrote on Wednesday (local time).
The initial lack of pushback from the White House has led many to theorise that Mr Navarro’s article was supported at the top levels of the White House.
But departing for a trip to Atlanta, Mr Trump was asked whether Mr Navarro had gone rogue.
“Well, he made a statement representing himself. He shouldn’t be doing that. No, I have a very good relationship with Anthony,” Mr Trump said.
A White House official said Mr Trump did not endorse Mr Navarro’s op-ed and that Mr Navarro was told “explicitly in recent days to de-escalate the situation”.
The official said that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is “fully engaged” on the matter and thinks Navarro’s article was “unacceptable”.
Dr Fauci is a member of the government’s coronavirus task force led by Vice-President Mike Pence. The 79-year-old infectious diseases expert aided the search to treat the HIV disease in the 1980s and is a revered figure for not letting politics intrude on his judgement.
“We’re all on the same team, including Dr Fauci,” Mr Trump said.
“We all want to get rid of this mess.”
Tensions between Mr Trump and Dr Fauci have emerged at times with the president focused on getting Americans back to work and school while Dr Fauci has urged caution to prevent the spread of infection.
Dr Fauci, in an interview with The Atlantic, said the White House’s recent attacks have been a “major mistake on their part”.
“I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself,” Fauci said.
He said he had not spoken with Mr Trump “in a while” but had been working with Mr Pence on the US struggle to gain control of the virus.