Report: Top Infectious Disease Expert Barred From Speaking Freely On Coronavirus
The Trump administration reportedly has barred the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) from commenting publicly on the coronavirus without first seeking approval from the White House, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has led the agency since 1984, reportedly told associates that the White House "had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance,” though a NIAID spokesperson told Business Insider that “this is not true.”
After President Donald Trump announced Vice President Mike Pence would lead the administration’s coronavirus response efforts and report directly to the president, Pence took measures to “require top officials to seek clearance before making public statements on the illness,” Insider reported.
Fauci, whose federal agency focuses on researching infectious diseases, has advised six presidents on domestic and global health issues, to include HIV and AIDS, and is highly respected as the White House’s top adviser on infectious disease.
But in recent days, the doctor has contradicted Trump’s comments on the coronavirus situation in the U.S.
Trump, who is reportedly hyper concerned over the virus’ impact on the stock market, said on Wednesday that the U.S. is "rapidly developing a vaccine" for the coronavirus and "will essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."
Fauci jumped in to say that this was untrue, indicating that it will be at least two months until trials can begin and likely more than a year until a public-ready vaccine is available.
"Even though we are going as fast as you possibly can, it's still going to take a good year, year and a half to see if we have a vaccine that works," he told Fox News earlier this week.
Fauci also told CNN last week that the world is likely on the brink of a coronavirus pandemic.
Ronald Klain, who led the Obama administration's response to the 2014 Ebola crisis, said if Fauci is being muzzled, it will be a problem for public health.
"Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama trusted Tony Fauci to be their top adviser on infectious disease, and the nation's most trusted communicator to the public,” he tweeted. "If Trump is changing that, it is a threat to public health and safety."