Late Friday night, the White House informed House Democrats that Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, was simply too busy to offer testimony on Capitol Hill. The House Appropriations Committee had requested that Fauci appear before the panel to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the administration’s efforts to contain it and limit covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”

It followed up with a broader prohibition Monday.

“We’re telling agencies that during this unprecedented time our resources need to be dedicated toward the coronavirus,” an official told the Hill website. “At this stage we really need everybody manning their stations and prioritizing coronavirus response work.”

It is probably the case that Fauci’s time is in fact better spent addressing the still-expanding crisis than offering testimony to Congress, in part because of the limited use of such testimony in general. No doubt he can offer a lot of insight about what the administration has done and continues to do, but it’s not clear that his insights are more important in the moment than his expertise on the virus.

That said, the Friday statement was a thoroughly disingenuous response from the White House. Why? Because the administration was more than happy to have Fauci attend its briefings from late February to late April, though Fauci rarely even spoke.

We went back and looked at the White House coronavirus task force meetings over that period, determining which Fauci attended and, using data from, how long he spoke. In short, he attended more than 43.6 hours of briefings and spoke for a total of 2.8 hours.

In other words, Fauci spent more than an entire workweek of time sitting around during the White House briefings.

While it’s not clear that Fauci’s time was more valuable in March and April than it is now, it was certainly not less valuable. In early April, his wife told CNBC that he was working 20-hour days at that point. Over the last week of March, Fauci spent an hour and 10 minutes of those 20 hours in the White House press briefing room, watching President Trump talk to (and often berate) reporters.

We do not recall a large number of complaints from the White House that this was not a good use of Fauci’s time.