“You know, my contact at the White House has been Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci. They have been aligned very, very closely. The message has been, ‘We got to take this seriously, we got to wear a mask’,” DeWine told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” when asked about the role Dr. Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the task force, is playing in the pandemic.
“They have given very good guidance and, you know, I have been following those two as well as a lot of other infectious disease experts and people who we can talk to,” the governor said.
The comments from DeWine come at a time when both Birx and Fauci, two prominent members of the task force, have receded from public view at the White House while Atlas has become one of President Donald Trump’s closest advisers on the public health crisis, something that has frustrated the other doctors.
Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no training in the field of infectious disease, has misrepresented the effectiveness of masks and discouraged testing of asymptomatic people, even though most medical experts, including Birx and Fauci, believe it is a critical element of stopping the spread of the virus.
Atlas — known for his out-of-the-mainstream views about the coronavirus, including the potential benefits of herd immunity — made dubious claims in a 27-minute interview to RT, the propaganda network that had played a major role in the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election and later was forced to formally register with the Justice Department as an agent of the Russian government.
Both Birx and Fauci have stepped back in recent weeks from the public view they were in at the White House for the last several months, with Birx having embarked on a multi-state swing through the country in August, advising small groups of state and local officials on combating transmission.
Fauci, meanwhile, has been critical of the administration in media interviews, choosing his words carefully in order to avoid being blocked from giving more interviews. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told The Washington Post in an interview published Saturday that he has “real problems with that guy,” referring to Atlas.
“He’s a smart guy who’s talking about things that I believe he doesn’t have any real insight or knowledge or experience in. He keeps talking about things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn’t make any sense,” Fauci told the Post.
CNN’s Maeve Reston, Kate Bennett and Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.