WASHINGTON — White House officials this week have denied trying to undermine Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, for his stark analysis of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Dan Scavino, the White House deputy chief of staff for communications, undercut that message by posting a cartoon mocking Fauci by an artist whose work has been criticized for its anti-Semitic imagery.
Scavino on Sunday posted on Facebook a rendering of Fauci that likened him to a faucet drowning Uncle Sam — in the case, representing the economy — with water drops labeled with mock public health warnings considered antithetical to White House policy: “Schools stay closed this fall!” “Indefinite lockdown!” “Shut up and obey!”
The post from Scavino, one of Trump’s most trusted advisers, is another example of the Trump administration treating Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as another political opponent, although Scavino refers to him as a colleague.
“Sorry, Dr. Faucet!” Scavino wrote in a caption accompanying the post. “At least you know if I’m going to disagree with a colleague, such as yourself, it’s done publicly — and not cowardly, behind journalists with leaks. See you tomorrow!”
It also contained errors: Fauci has publicly said that he favors getting children back to school but that decisions should be made by taking into account the level of coronavirus cases in each district into account, and has said that he is against more widespread lockdowns after pushing for an extensive one earlier this year.
The cartoon posted by Scavino was drawn by Ben Garrison, an artist whose work is often promoted by alt-right figures and trolls. Last year, Garrison was disinvited from a White House gathering of the president’s social media fans because his work contains anti-Semitic messaging.
Scavino posted the cartoon a day after The Washington Post published an article detailing how officials had kept Fauci from television interviews and, in their behind-the-scenes communications with reporters, accused him of making several false statements.
When asked Monday if White House aides were engaged in campaign-style opposition research against Fauci, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said that the White House had simply been responding to questions from reporters.
On Tuesday, the White House declined to comment on Scavino’s post, or whether it was a reflection of Trump’s views on Fauci, but one senior official praised him for putting his name to the post.
Scavino, Trump’s former golf caddie who has been by the president’s side since the 2016 campaign, is one of the few aides who has Trump’s confidence. From his desk within shouting distance of the Oval Office, Scavino often workshops social media posts with the president, and presents Trump with ideas surfaced from the administration’s broader universe of alt-right meme creators, cartoonists and trolls.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Scavino has used his sizable social media platform to enter into controversies surrounding the White House, including in April, when he accused Voice of America of promoting Chinese propaganda.
In the past, Trump has also been criticized for sharing social media posts critical of Fauci, including one that called for his firing, but Monday, Trump said he liked Fauci “personally” though he did not always agree with him.
Fauci visited the White House on Monday to meet with Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, but it is unclear if he encountered Trump or Scavino.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.