The White House has denied any efforts to discredit Dr Anthony Fauci, but then top Trump administration aide Dan Scavino shared a cartoon against the infectious disease expert and his coronavirus response.
Mr Scavino, a White House social media director and deputy chief of communications for the White House, shared a cartoon on Facebook showing Dr Fauci mirroring that of a faucet.
Phrases like “schools stay closed this fall,” “indefinite lockdown,” “shut up and obey”, and “no NFL season” then poured out of the water from the faucet.
“Sorry, Dr. Faucet! At least you know if I’m going to disagree with a colleague, such as yourself, it’s done publicly – and not cowardly, behind journalists with leaks,” Mr Scavino wrote. “See you tomorrow!”
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a vocal critic of Dr Fauci, was pictured in the cartoon saying, “shut him off”.
The cartoon was drawn by Ben Garrison, a political cartoonist whose illustrations have largely received promotion from the alt-right. In 2019, his invitation to the White House was rescinded after one of his cartoons was accused of anti-semitism.
Mr Scavino’s criticism of Dr Fauci, the director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, comes as rifts appear to heighten between the expert and the Trump administration.
Dr Fauci also serves as a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, but his relationship with the White House has reportedly depleted as he’s been more vocal about the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic in states across the US.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Dr Fauci said he hadn’t personally briefed the president in two months. The White House has also allegedly pushed for the expert to halt all television appearances, according to the Washington Post.
The rift could be widening after Dr Fauci suggested states that are experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations should pause or roll back reopening plans, which starkly differs from what Donald Trump wants. The president has instead blamed testing for why cases are increasing, despite hospitalisations also causing problems in states like Florida and Texas.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted that Dr Fauci was being heard within the administration about how to handle the pandemic. But she added he was just “one member” among many the president was considering when making decisions.
“The point of the task force is to be a whole of government look at what is best for this country,” Ms McEnany said in an interview on Fox & Friends on Monday morning. “Dr. Fauci is one member of a team, but rest assured, his viewpoint is represented and the information gets to the president through the task force.”
She also denied there was any opposition reports released by the White House to journalists aimed against the top expert during a press briefing.
Dr Fauci was asked by the Financial Times about the rumours he was no longer allowed to appear for television interviews.
“I have a reputation, as you probably have figured out, of speaking the truth at all times and not sugar-coating things. And that maybe one of the reasons why I haven’t been on television very much lately,” he said.