There has been a running narrative in the mainstream media about growing tension between President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert and top adviser on the White House coronavirus task force. Both Trump and Fauci, however, have disputed the notion that there is any sort of internal conflict.
It finally now appears that there may be at least a partial element of truth to that narrative, albeit not involving Trump. Rather, Trump’s top economics and trade adviser, Peter Navarro, reportedly engaged in a heated confrontation with Fauci on Saturday, according to The Hill.
The crux of the fight was said to have been the level of optimism expressed by the administration surrounding the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, though the argument was also reported to have spilled over into the topic of the president’s coronavirus-related travel ban on China.
Navarro versus Fauci
Axios was the first to report on the alleged confrontation between Navarro and Fauci during the task force’s White House meeting on Saturday afternoon, which, according to unnamed sources, suddenly erupted toward the end when the topic of hydroxychloroquine came up in the discussion.
Navarro was said to be convinced of the “clear therapeutic efficacy” of the anti-malarial drug against the coronavirus and had a stack of reports and studies from around the world supporting his position.
Fauci, meanwhile, reportedly maintained the cautious position he’s held throughout the crisis — namely, that there is only limited anecdotal evidence that the drug works and that there still needs to be more clinical trials with control groups and peer review in order to be certain.
The doctor’s continued resistance was reportedly too much for Navarro, who was said to have slammed his stack of folders containing global reports and studies on the table and said, “That’s science, not anecdote,” before shifting to accuse Fauci of not supporting President Trump’s travel restrictions. “You were the one who early on objected to the travel restrictions with China,” Navarro allegedly said.
That accusation was a bit odd, however, given that Fauci has repeatedly issued public praise for Trump’s decision to impose travel restrictions that, in Fauci’s view, contributed greatly to delaying and reducing the spread of the virus in the U.S. and undoubtedly saved American lives.
No comment from White House
According to Axios’ sources, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner eventually interceded and calmed things down between Navarro and Fauci, and the task force ultimately agreed that the administration’s public stance should be to leave the decision of whether to use the drug or not up to individual doctors and their patients.
“There has never been a confrontation in the task force meetings like the one yesterday,” one of the unnamed sources told Axios. “People speak up and there’s robust debate, but there’s never been a confrontation. Yesterday was the first confrontation.”
It is worth noting that the White House declined to either confirm or deny the alleged confrontation, with Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller simply telling Axios, “We don’t comment on meetings in the Situation Room.”
The media will certainly seize upon this reported incident to continue to play up the narrative of internal division, but for what it’s worth, both Navarro and Fauci are correct — there are plenty of small studies and anecdotal evidence already in existence to suggest that hydroxychloroquine is effective against the coronavirus, but it is still wise to reserve final judgment until larger and more comprehensive research can be conducted.