The White House is blocking Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying before a House panel next week on the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci, an leading infectious disease expert, is a prominent part of the White House’s coronavirus task force.
“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement Friday. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”
The Trump administration has been criticized for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. leads the world in coronavirus cases, with more than 1 million confirmed cases as of Friday.
Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has used the platform of the White House coronavirus briefings to repeatedly urge the American public to abide by social distancing guidelines, warning about a possible increase in cases if they don’t.
Meanwhile, some states, including Texas and Georgia, have begun to reopen businesses. President Donald Trump has referred to right-wing protesters demanding that states reopen workplaces as “great people,” despite their open flouting of social distancing measures as they protest.
Fauci’s statements to the public have sometimes clashed with Trump’s — such as when Trump last month repeatedly pushed a malaria drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19, while Fauci urged in news interviews that we can’t “definitively say it works” and the country had to be “careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug.”
After Trump retweeted a message that criticized Fauci and included a #FireFauci hashtag last month, the White House insisted the president had no plans to oust the expert.
The hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday will include testimony from former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, according to lawmakers.
“Congress and the American public deserve a clear-eyed view of the path forward for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” committee chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in a statement, noting the need for more information on the federal government’s plans for testing, contact tracing and addressing the coinciding flu season in the fall.