“What we’re seeing is that scientists will no longer be cowed by the White House.”
Until recently, the medical experts on the White House coronavirus task force have walked a tightrope.
They have been pressing to deliver the best science to the public while trying to avoid appearing to directly contradict Trump — in hopes of maintaining influence in the decision-making process.
The effort has played out, at moments, as an awkward dance.
For months now, the West Wing has controlled the media schedule of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who drew the ire of the president and his advisers in the early days of the pandemic because of the outsized media attention he received and his perceived willingness to contradict the president, according to three White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has struck a far more cautious tone than Trump or any other member of the task force about the nation’s move to “reopen,” provoking the frustration of a president who sees a resurgent economy as key to winning another four years in office.
Birx, until recently, had largely stayed on the president’s good side, though her rosy depictions of the pandemic fight drew recent skepticism from Democrats and other public health officials.
But Trump also shredded Birx privately as well as in his public comments this week for not striking a more optimistic tone about states that are doing well and for saying she had “tremendous respect” for Trump’s rival Pelosi, the officials said.
Throughout the pandemic, some government public health officials have privately expressed worry to West Wing staffers that they are fearful of contradicting the president even as they try to focus on the data and the science behind the administration’s response to the virus, officials said.