Firing Fauci would be ‘unimaginable,’ NIH director says
The idea of infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci being fired by the White House as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic is “unimaginable,” National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins said Sunday.
Collins said that he has not received any requests from the White House that Fauci – the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – be demoted amid grumblings from some in the Trump administration over his handling of the pandemic and condemnation from Fauci over what he sees as attacks against him.
“Nobody has asked me to do that, and I find that concept unimaginable,” Collins said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “And I am amused that everybody’s calling me Dr. Fauci’s boss because his real boss is his wife, Christine Grady. She might have something to say about that.”
President Trump, while being critical of Fauci at times, denied during an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that he was running a campaign to have Fauci ousted.
A senior administration official confirmed to Fox News that Trump and Fauci talked last week – marking the first time the president is believed to have had a conversation with the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in more than two months.
The conversation comes after Peter Navarro, a trade adviser to Trump, published a shocking op-ed piece in USA Today where he accused Fauci of being “wrong about everything” when it comes to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“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.
Navarro began by saying that Fauci “fought against” Trump’s “courageous decision” in late January to suspend flights from China as the novel coronavirus began to spread, arguing that that decision “might well have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives.”
Navarro went on to complain Fauci was “flip-flopping on the use of masks.”
In an interview with The Atlantic earlier this week, Fauci called Navarro’s op-ed “bizarre” and said all it does is ultimately hurt Trump.
“Ultimately, it hurts the president to do that,” Fauci told The Atlantic. “When the staff lets out something like that and the entire scientific and press community push back on it, it ultimately hurts the president.”
While the president himself has been critical of Fauci at times – and said that he doesn’t always agree with him – Trump has said he has a good relationship with the infectious disease expert.
“I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci,” he said on Wednesday.
The White House has also pushed back on Navarro’s words, with one senior administration official telling Fox News that the op-ed slamming Fauci was “definitely not approved by the White House.” Another White House official told Fox News that Navarro is “going rogue.”
Fox News’ Kristen Fisher contributed to this report.