WASHINGTON – Dr. Anthony Fauci may be on the cusp of retirementbut this has not made the president’s first medical adviser immune to political attacks from opponents who hold him responsible for various shortcomings, real or perceived, in how the nation has handled the coronavirus pandemic.
His most recent critic is Twitter owner Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest men, who trained his 121 million followers on the 81-year-old outgoing director of the National Institute of Allergy and Disease Infectious with a series of messages in recent days.
“My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” Musk tweeted on Sunday, using a popular right-wing meme to mock transgender and non-binary people. Since take over the platform at the end of October, the Tesla founder has made the platform more openly political, engaging in the kind of tough talk that makes the site unpleasant for some users. and advertisers.
The White House condemned Musk’s attacks on Fauci during a briefing Monday afternoon. “They are disgusting and they are divorced from reality,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told Yahoo News, adding that the attacks on public health officials – which have just been confined to Faucialthough he has been the most prominent target – they were “incredibly dangerous”.
Fauci has served every president since Ronald Reagan and has treated every major infectious disease outbreak since the 1980s. Jean-Pierre praised Fauci as an “exceptional talent” who had “saved countless lives,” including by listening, and working with, AIDS activists pushing for faster drug trials at a time when an HIV diagnosis is tantamount to a death sentence. Later, he personally treated Ebola patients.
But it is Fauci’s work for the administrations of Donald Trump and Joe Biden that has made him a very controversial figure in American public life.
Although he only served as an advisor to the two – and was eventually sidelined by Trump – Fauci has become a symbol of almost everything that is scary and frustrating about COVID-19, including the very advent of the pandemic itself.
In another meme Musk shared, Fauci is seen advising Biden to impose “one more” lockdown. But, in fact, it was under Trump, not Biden, that the most onerous shutdowns occurred, largely because the coronavirus was new in 2020 and little is known about how it spreads. By the time Biden became president in 2021, the lockdowns had largely become politically toxic — and, thanks to the arrival of effective vaccines, useless.
After taking over Twitter, Musk has become an increasingly political — and polarizing — figure. Sunday evening he was fired at a San Francisco show by comedian Dave Chappelle, that is is no stranger to controversy himself
Elected officials in Washington who had been eyeing Musk’s takeover saw the anti-Fauci tweets as more evidence that he would be an unpredictable custodian of a platform. loved by the political and media elite.
“Courting vaccine deniers doesn’t seem like a smart business strategy, but the problem is this: Could you just leave a good guy alone in your seemingly endless quest for attention?” wrote Senator Amy Klobuchar on – naturally enough – Twitter.
Musk ended Twitter’s policy against the proliferation of coronavirus misinformation at the end of last month, apparently in accordance with his desire to make the platform adhere more closely to its principles of free speech without limits.
It also released a series of internal documents related to some of the most controversial decisions Twitter has made in recent years, including the removal of Trump and the suppression of a New York Post article about the contents of the laptop by Hunter Biden.
The release of the document included evidence that top Twitter executives sought to downplay the views Dr. Jay Bhattacharyaa Stanford physician who co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, which pushed the company to reopen without coronavirus restrictions. Bhattacharya spent part of last Friday at Twitter headquarters, at Musk’s invitation.
Fauci was well known for disagreeing with Bhattacharya and others who sought a fuller and faster reopening, and he openly lamented the spread of misinformation online. But he didn’t have the power to influence the decisions of giant corporations — or local governments that often moved at their own pace, other than what the federal government recommended at the time.
All of which may mean little to Musk, who has made a habit of discounting fringe or discredited ideas. After a man attacked the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco, Musk spreads a purely fictitious report that the attack had, in fact, been a lover’s dispute between the attacker and Pelosi’s husband.
The coronavirus, of course, has spawned an entire cottage industry of conspiracy theories — with Fauci near the center of many of them. That made him the target of extremists, including the one who had planned to travel to Washington to kill him and others.
“It’s so outlandish, it almost borders on the ridiculous,” Fauci he told a BBC podcast last week when asked about the attacks against him. “As for my own safety, I don’t let that bother me,” he said, but denounced the attacks on his wife and daughters as “cowardly.”
Some far-right personalities like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has long called for the prosecution or firing of Fauci, but the reasons for such action are unclear at best. Some of his critics believe he knows more than he has publicly said about the so-called gain-of-function research that was done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and may have caused the initial outbreak of SARS-CoV- 2 in the central city of China.
Although the possibility that the coronavirus emerged from a laboratory remains a credible – albeit disputed – hypothesis, there is no reason to believe that Fauci would have been aware of such an accident, or that he would have approved the types of practices which allow such an accident happens.
Fauci “lied to Congress and funded profit-making research that killed millions of people,” Musk wrote in response to his initial anti-Fauci post.
Fauci testified openly about the need to work with laboratories in China, since there are many diseases. And while the search for function gain is really controversial, some believe that just to enhance a virus can really understand its potential evolution.
Opponents of masks and vaccines — and Fauci is a symbol of both — have responded to Musk’s messages with enthusiasm. A conservative critic of Fauci and associated public health experts, Dr. Eli David, shared a meme based on actor Will Smith’s infamous slap of comedian Chris Rock at the Academy Awards — only in his version. it was Musk gleefully hitting on Fauci.
Musk is a supporter of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has opposed almost all restrictions, including masks, lockdowns and vaccines. He was praised for keeping his state open, but 83,200 people died there. Critics have accused him and other conservative leaders of not taking the pandemic seriously enough.
Earlier this year, DeSantis derided Fauci as “a little elf,” urging his supporters to “throw him across the Potomac.”
Although prosecution remains an odd possibility, Republicans could call Fauci to testify when they take over the House in January, especially if they are encouraged to do so by high-profile figures like Musk. Fauci said he would cooperate with Congressional requests.
“If I’m going to be a punching bag, I’m a punching bag,” he said in an interview last week. “But I’m very happy to testify before any congressional oversight committee, I have nothing to hide. I can explain and validate everything I’ve done.”
Musk seemed to enjoy the controversy his anti-Fauci tweets caused. Once again returning to a meme that would have been largely unknown outside the far-right media ecosystem, he compared his detractors to the infamous Branch Davidian religious cult, which was based in Waco, Texas, before federal agents stormed the it was composed in 1993.
“Branch Covidians are angry lol,” Musk tweeted Monday morning.