Over time, he has learned to navigate the collisions between politics and health. That has never been more difficult than in this administration, but Dr. Fauci has recognized that to remain effective, he must navigate Mr. Trump’s mercurial moods and contempt for expertise. The two once enjoyed an occasionally bantering relationship, and the president several times followed Dr. Fauci’s advice to extend national stay-at-home guidance. But that was as far as it went; Mr. Trump calls Dr. Fauci “Anthony,” a name that few use for someone who prefers the more casual moniker “Tony.”
Dr. Fauci’s international reputation has not spared him from the White House attacks, which first appeared in The Washington Post and later in other news outlets. The criticism, which was distributed anonymously to reporters, detailed what the White House believed was a series of premature or contradictory recommendations that Dr. Fauci has made over the past several months as the virus bore down on the United States.
For example, White House officials pointed to a statement by Dr. Fauci in a Feb. 29 interview that “at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.” But they omitted a warning he delivered right after.
“Right now, the risk is still low, but this could change,” he said in the interview, conducted by NBC News. “When you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread.”
In the same interview, Dr. Fauci also warned that the coronavirus could become “a major outbreak.”
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, took ownership on Monday of the opposition research-style effort, saying that her office merely “provided a direct answer to what was a direct question” from The Post about whether Dr. Fauci had made mistakes during the course of the response.
Even some of Dr. Fauci’s senior colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services have begun to echo the White House. Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary for health and a fellow member of the coronavirus task force, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Dr. Fauci “is not 100 percent right, and he also doesn’t necessarily — and he admits that — have the whole national interest in mind.”
Admiral Giroir added that Dr. Fauci “looks at it from a very narrow public health point of view.”
Dr. Fauci spent the early days of the pandemic as the leading scientific voice in the federal government’s response before falling out of favor with Mr. Trump and his top aides over blunt comments inconsistent with the president’s message of economic resurgence. In task force meetings, Dr. Fauci has often styled himself as a solitary pessimist in a room where some officials have been eager to wave away the alarming trajectory of the coronavirus.