White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Thursday that Dr. Anthony Fauci was wrong to say the deadly coronavirus outbreak could possibly be similar to the 1918 flu pandemic, calling America’s top infectious disease expert’s remarks “irresponsible” and “false.”
“He was at Georgetown the other day and he suggested that this virus was worse or as bad as the 1918 flu epidemic. And I can tell you that not only is that false, it is irresponsible to suggest so, Meadows told Fox News.
“Listen, we all say things and do things that we wish that we hadn’t done. My understanding is Dr. Fauci is walking that back and telling the American people that that was not accurate and not based on science,” Meadows continued.
Meadows’s attacks came just one day after President Trump and the White House tried to minimize any beef the administration had with Fauci, with President Trump asserting: “We’re all on the same team. Including Dr. Fauci.”
Meadows’ comments also came after he rebuked White House trade adviser Peter Navarro’s scathing op-ed in USA Today criticizing Fauci, which he said was “not appropriate.”
A spokesperson for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci directs, did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill, which reported on Meadows’ comments.
Meadows, a former lawmaker from North Carolina, was referring to comments Fauci made Tuesday during a Georgetown University Global Health Initiative webinar during which he described the coronavirus as a “pandemic of historic proportions” and suggested it was possible the coronavirus could equal the “seriousness” of the 1918 pandemic, which killed at least 50 million worldwide and about 675,000 in the US in a little over two years.
The coronavirus pandemic, by contrast, has killed at least 591,000 people worldwide and infected more than 13.8 million, including 3.4 million cases in the US and roughly 137,000 deaths, in about six-and-a-half months.
“Right now if you look at the magnitude of the 1918 pandemic where anywhere from 50 to 75 to 100 million people died, I mean that was the mother of all pandemics and truly historic. I hope we don’t even approach that with this, but it does have the makings of the possibility of … approaching that in seriousness, though I hope that the kinds of interventions that we’re going to be, and are implementing would not allow that to happen,” Fauci said.
Fauci said the two pandemics were similar because they were caused by novel viruses that jumped from animals to humans and were also highly contagious from person to person.