USA Today on Wednesday night issued an editor’s note following intense backlash over its publication of White House trade adviser Peter Navarro’s op-ed criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci.
On Tuesday night, Navarro blasted Fauci in his USA Today op-ed by arguing that the nation’s top infectious disease expert “has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.”
On Wednesday, USA TODAY editorial page editor Bill Sternberg responded to the backlash over Navarro’s op-ed in an editor’s note.
Sternberg wrote that the decision to publish Navarro’s op-ed is part of USA Today’s “longstanding tradition” of giving “readers another point of view” and that the newspaper reached out to Navarro individually. Navarro’s op-ed was published soon after USA Today’s editorial board praised Fauci for being a “national treasure” and sharply criticized recent White House efforts to discredit him.
“We dealt directly with Navarro and do not know whether he spoke to anyone else at the White House about his statement,” Sternberg wrote.
Sternberg explained that Navarro’s op-ed expanded on the criticisms of Fauci that he shared with other news outlets recently.
“We felt it was newsworthy because it expanded on those comments, put an on-the-record name to the attacks on Fauci, and contradicted White House denials of an anti-Fauci campaign,” Sternberg wrote.
Sternberg concluded his editor’s note by determining that Navarro’s op-ed failed to meet USA Today’s fact-checking standards. Sternberg cited Navarro’s criticisms of Fauci regarding China travel restrictions, the risk from the coronavirus and falling mortality rates as being “misleading or lacked context.”
Navarro’s op-ed came just days after an unnamed White House official sent news outlets a memo over the weekend claiming that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.”
The next day, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows denied in a statement shared with TPM that President Trump gave Navarro the clear to publish his caustic op-ed against Fauci. Meadows issued his denial of Trump’s role in Navarro’s op-ed in a Los Angeles Times report where an administration official claimed that “not only was (Navarro) authorized by Trump, he was encouraged.”
Several White House officials distanced themselves from Navarro’s op-ed on Wednesday.
When pressed by reporters about whether he approved Navarro’s op-ed, Trump dodged by saying “that’s Peter Navarro, but I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.”
Vice President Mike Pence echoed Trump soon after by telling reporters during a campaign call on Wednesday that the White House “couldn’t be more grateful” for Fauci’s “steady counsel.”
Deputy White House press secretary Alyssa Farah tweeted Wednesday morning that Navarro’s op-ed “didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes.”