Anthony Fauci Must Go

Joe Biden should immediately relieve Dr. Anthony Fauci of his duties at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as chief medical adviser to the White House, and as the public face of the American government’s response to Covid-19…

It is past time for public-health policy to shift to acknowledging that Covid-19 is an endemic disease and, for the most part, a risk for individuals to manage. Fauci stands in the way of executing that shift and communicating it to the public.

Fauci’s own behavior has undermined public trust in the response to the pandemic: by sitting for celebrity puff profiles and documentaries, by stifling public debate about the origins of Covid-19 and the proper response to it, by responding in lawyerly and evasive fashion to questions about NIH research dollars supporting work at the Wuhan lab. In his nasty spats with Senator Rand Paul and other officeholders, he hasn’t simply parried criticisms but tried to land political blows himself.

It has always been bizarre that the head of an obscure agency has soaked up so much media attention. Over the past two years, Fauci has done so many interviews with so many outlets — from Sunday shows to obscure podcasts — that one wonders how he had time for his day job. Nearly everyone in Washington enjoys being in front of a microphone, but even the most shameless media hogs might blush at Fauci’s interview schedule. It would be one thing if Fauci were merely delivering updates on the state of Covid. But he has gone way beyond that and delved into pure self-promotion. How did the appearance of Fauci on the cover of InStyle, sitting by the pool in sunglasses, declaring, “With all due modesty, I think I’m pretty effective,” advance public health?

He arguably played a valuable role in the early stages of the pandemic, when many Americans found him a comforting voice. He was an experienced doctor and public-health official who had served every president since Ronald Reagan, and he had passed through and learned from the political storms and medical uncertainties of the AIDS crisis.

But that was a long time ago. By his own admission, Fauci misleads the public. When trying to explain why, before he adopted them for himself, he had disparaged the use of cloth masks, he explained that people in the public-health community were trying to preserve masks for front-line workers.

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“There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask,” he said in March 2020. “When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better, and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is. And, often, there are unintended consequences — people keep fiddling with the mask, and they keep touching their face.” He did not trust the public to restrain themselves. Score this as a lie and a slur. This was a public that was already making wrenching, unthinkable sacrifices — with Americans forgoing the funerals of loved ones, surrendering their jobs, and closing down their businesses — in an attempt to meet the ultimately unrealistic task public health had set for them of stopping the spread of Covid-19. They deserved candor.

In a December 2020 interview with the New York Times, Fauci acknowledged that he had been continuously shifting the goalposts on when he thought herd immunity to Covid-19 might be reached. Reporter Donald McNeil Jr. correctly characterized this change as being based “partly on [Fauci’s] gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.”

This pattern of intentional deceit is totally unbecoming for a public servant. Trying to shape or manipulate public opinion and behavior is not the job of public-health experts; their job is to clearly and candidly inform a self-governing people and their representatives. Trust works only if it goes two ways. A free, curious, and inquisitive people subjected to this behavior from their leaders will naturally recoil at other government claims about vaccines or therapeutics.

Fauci has peremptorily dismissed criticism of his work as criticism of science itself. The effect has been to bring science into disrepute. Fauci participated in and amplified the smoke-and-mirrors public-relations campaign launched by EcoHealth Alliance’s Dr. Peter Daszak to rule out the lab-leak theory of Covid-19 as a conspiracy theory. Subsequent email leaks and FOIA requests have shown Fauci acting more like the head of a cartel of scientific experts.

A post-pandemic investigation should determine whether the American and global-health response to the pandemic was stymied and slowed because of the prejudices and hobbyhorses of a handful of bureaucrats in Washington, including Dr. Fauci, who control the distribution of $32 billion annually. These dollars fund nearly all of the lifeblood of biomedical inquiry, money that pays even the salaries of low-level biology professors.

Fauci’s political dispositions shape his alarmism and discredited him with a large swath of the country that any viable public-health strategy has to be able to reach. He denounced people for attending college-football games in a region of the country where Covid was in seasonal decline. No outbreak materialized. He’s been under fire from Republican senators and House members and has handled it increasingly poorly — he was caught on a hot mic calling Senator Roger Marshall a “moron” during a Senate hearing last week.

Fauci’s claim that he himself “represents the science” and his admitted deceptions of the public are incompatible with each other and intolerably insolent to boot. Most important, they subvert and undermine American self-government. He must go. ✪

Until TRUMP Official Launch

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