• The Trump White House has now taken the extraordinary step of openly working to discredit one of its key advisors during the coronavirus pandemic — Dr. Anthony Fauci.
  • White House officials have been circulating a memo to members of the press containing reasons they think Fauci shouldn’t be listened to as a voice of authority on the coronavirus.
  • Trump officials have also taken to calling Fauci “Dr. Doom and Gloom” behind his back.

Aides to President Trump have taken to calling Dr. Anthony Fauci “Dr. Doom and Gloom” behind his back. That’s according to new reporting that’s been trickling out since this weekend which reveals a depressing new response from the Trump White House to the coronavirus pandemic — instead of getting behind a comprehensive, aggressive plan to tackle what’s proven to be the greatest crisis facing the US in generations, officials have basically just started Mean Girl-ing one of the highest-profile voices of authority in the nation.

We’re talking, of course, about Fauci, who also serves as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And who, as we mentioned this weekend, is now the subject of a whisper campaign from White House officials whose desire for a positive narrative is clashing with Fauci’s glum prognostications.

As a measure of how unusual this is, NBC News reported on Sunday having been told by a White House official that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.” Furthermore, this source provided the outlet with almost a dozen comments Fauci made in the early days of the pandemic that “had ultimately proven erroneous.”

ABC News on Monday added that an actual document containing what amount to talking points against Fauci is being distributed by White House officials to members of the press. The outlet also quoted two “senior level” Trump officials who confirmed the doctor is sometimes denigrated as “Dr. Doom and Gloom.” As our report noted on Sunday:

According to NBC, the comments included Fauci’s original suspicion that coronavirus was “not a major threat.” (Source: The Hill — “It’s a very, very low risk to the United States,” Fauci said, during an interview with radio show host John Catsimatidis. “But it’s something that we as public health officials need to take very seriously … It isn’t something the American public needs to worry about or be frightened about.”)

The unnamed White House official also pointed to other Fauci comments from the past, like his assertion from March that “There’s no reason to be walking around with a (face) mask,” which Fauci said during a 60 Minutes interview.

Officials like Fauci have stressed that because this is a new virus we’ve never encountered before, everyone is learning in real-time, on the fly. Which means that our understanding changes as we learn more about the virus — though, of course, anti-vaxxers and the like will point to shifting statements from health officials as some kind of proof that the authorities don’t know what they’re talking about and we ultimately shouldn’t listen to them.

Here’s what you should keep an eye on: While the smear campaign against Fauci has an element of high school-level gossip to it, there’s an obvious follow-up question. If the doctor is not being listened to, and if the Trump administration is now taking the extraordinary step of trying to discredit him, should he leave his post at some point? This piece in The New York Times over the weekend argued the answer is an emphatic “yes.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.