US President Donald Trump has wondered aloud why medical expert Anthony Fauci has a higher approval rating with the public than he does.
Mr Trump is battling to improve his standing with voters for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It can only be my personality,” said Mr Trump on Tuesday (local time).
Dr Fauci, an infectious disease expert who is on Mr Trump’s coronavirus task force, is one of the most trusted people in government and many Americans listen to his advice diligently on how to protect themselves from infection.
Mr Trump has been criticised over his handling of the pandemic, putting him in jeopardy of losing the November 3 presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.
The subject of Dr Fauci came up at a news conference where Mr Trump defended his support for malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a hedge against the virus. Mr Trump said he felt the drug worked “in the early stages.”
Most public health experts say hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat the coronavirus because it could lead to heart and other problems.
The US Food and Drug Administration last month revoked its emergency-use authorisation for hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 after several studies cast doubt on its effectiveness.
Mr Trump said he and others in his administration deserved plaudits for their handling of the virus, not just Dr Fauci and another prominent member of the task force, Deborah Birx.
“He’s working with our administration and for the most part we have done pretty much what he and others, Dr Birx and others, who are terrific, recommended. And he’s got this high approval rating. So why don’t I have a high approval rating and the administration with respect to the virus? We should have a very high (approval rating),” Mr Trump said.
“So it sort of is curious, a man works for us, and yet they’re highly thought of and nobody likes me. It can only be my personality,” he said.
The recent rise in US deaths and infections has dampened early hopes that the country was past the worst of a crisis that has decimated businesses and put millions of Americans out of work.
The national death toll is almost 150,000.
Dr Fauci has been a subject of debate within the White House for months because he is quite frank in saying where he agrees and disagrees with the President.
Mr Trump has said repeatedly that Dr Fauci advised him he did not have to close down travel with China, where the outbreak originated, early this year when the scope of the pandemic was not yet clear, and that he did not accept the advice.