There likely is no one with a more apolitical resume than Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has quietly served a nation as its foremost expert in infectious diseases since 1984, the Reagan administration. Watching him during the daily press briefings, Dr. SJ and I were highly impressed with his savvy in stating medical fact without making Trump look like a simplistic blustering fool.
He’s been around politicians and political appointees for a very long time, and presumably survived by threading the needle between ignorance and ego. You don’t last in government, no matter what your role, by pissing off those in power.
At the same time, Dr. Anthony Fauci labors under a burden that Trump does not: he’s a physician and does not want to contribute to death and destruction for the sake of pandering to pop beliefs. In other times, under other presidents more inclined to defer to facts, this might not be a big deal. But then, these aren’t other times and this president has little use for the pending reality of death and destruction except as a mechanism he can use for his own self-aggrandizement.
That puts Dr. Fauci in an awkward position. Does he support his president spewing nonsensical if incoherent claims, correct the claims or sit silently and allow as many deaths as COVID-19 claims?
This has infuriated supporters of the president, who perceive anything shy of fawning adoration as an attack. To be clear, the opposition to the president suffers from the same perception, not to mention the same abhorrence of scientific reality when it fails to conform to their delusion, so it’s not as if this isn’t an equal opportunity delusion.
But this time, with a pandemic about to wreak its havoc, Dr. Fauci is in the idiocracy’s crosshairs.
At a White House briefing on the coronavirus on March 20, President Trump called the State Department the “Deep State Department.” Behind him, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, dropped his head and rubbed his forehead.
Some thought Dr. Fauci was slighting the president, leading to a vitriolic online reaction. On Twitter and Facebook, a post that falsely claimed he was part of a secret cabal who opposed Mr. Trump was soon shared thousands of times, reaching roughly 1.5 million people.
Did Dr. Fauci facepalm at Trump’s “joke” about the “deep state department,” or was his forehead itchy? Beats me, and beats you too, not that those protective of Trump to a fault aren’t as certain about Dr. Fauci’s malevolent message as their counterparts are of there being 57 genders.
A week later, Dr. Fauci — the administration’s most outspoken advocate of emergency measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak — has become the target of an online conspiracy theory that he is mobilizing to undermine the president.
That fanciful claim has spread across social media, fanned by a right-wing chorus of Mr. Trump’s supporters, even as Dr. Fauci has won a public following for his willingness to contradict the president and correct falsehoods and overly rosy pronouncements about containing the virus.
Dr. Fauci did his best to remain within the confines of medical reality without embarrassing Trump. But as reflected by the Times’ characterization of him, “the administration’s most outspoken advocate,” he’s been jammed into an untenable position not by his own doing, but by the warring camps. By putting him on a pedestal as the antidote to empty bluster, they dare #Cult45 to knock him off.
Whether reasonable physicians can differ about what to do isn’t the question. Within the sound parameters of science and medicine, there are fair disputes just as there are in law. Perhaps Dr. Fauci is absolutely correct in his views, or perhaps he’s wrong about some things. That’s the sort of debate best left to people with sufficient medical education, knowledge and experience. Having none of these things, I demur. If you don’t have them, so should you, no matter how fervently you believe in whatever crap floats through your head.
But Dr. Fauci, at bare minimum, has been one of the few voices for whom politics played no part in his performance of his job, beyond his doing his best to skirt offense in the face of bluster. That might have been enough in the past, but not this time. The left saw the crack between his advice and Trump’s noise and exploited it to show what a self-aggrandizing fool stood behind the podium.
An analysis by The New York Times found over 70 accounts on Twitter that have promoted the hashtag #FauciFraud, with some tweeting as frequently as 795 times a day. The anti-Fauci sentiment is being reinforced by posts from Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group; Bill Mitchell, host of the far-right online talk show “YourVoice America”; and other outspoken Trump supporters such as Shiva Ayyadurai, who has falsely claimed to be the inventor of email.
The left put the target on Dr. Fauci’s back. The right took its best shot.
“When you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times, and then it happens,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with Science magazine this past week. “So, I’m going to keep pushing.”
Right or wrong, Dr. Fauci’s only purpose is to help a nation survive, not be the darling of the left or the enemy of the right. He never sought to be anyone’s angel or devil, but just a doc doing his job. Regardless of which flavor Kool-Aid you prefer, leave Dr. Fauci alone. Your survival might just depend on it, as you can bet that Trump won’t be there to intubate you, and you surely wouldn’t want him to do so if he were.