Dr. Anthony Fauci gets very real about the anxiety of working for former President Trump
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was introduced to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In his storied 40-year career, he’s advised seven presidents (now including President Biden) whenever a new health crisis popped up and the coronavirus pandemic was no exception. What was an exception, however, was working with and for a president who’s hostile to science and anything that dings his fragile man-baby ego, which made Dr. Fauci’s never-easy job just that much more difficult.
In a new interview with The New York Times, Dr. Fauci shares details about some of his biggest WTF moments while working with the Trump administration, and let’s just say, this man has the patience of a saint.
As Fauci’s popularity climbed with folks who believe that germs and viruses are real, it plummeted with those who still think Trump has a chance at winning the 2020 election. As we witnessed on January 6, this is kind of a terrifying group of individuals, and to that end, Fauci mentioned that not only himself, but his family were subject to death threats. But working with Trump and trying to inject some logic, sanity, and science into the conversation proved to be its own brand of scary.
“I would try to express the gravity of the situation, and the response of the president was always leaning toward, ‘Well, it’s not that bad, right?’ And I would say, ‘Yes, it is that bad,'” Fauci recounts. “It was almost a reflex response, trying to coax you to minimize it. Not saying, ‘I want you to minimize it,’ but, ‘Oh, really, was it that bad?'”
Fauci also shares that it was “clear” Trump was getting information from sources that probably weren’t scientific, as in, random friends and business contacts. “He would take just as seriously their opinion — based on no data, just anecdote — that something might really be important,” he says. “It wasn’t just hydroxychloroquine, it was a variety of alternative-medicine-type approaches. It was always, ‘A guy called me up, a friend of mine from blah, blah, blah.’ That’s when my anxiety started to escalate.”
Fauci says that as soon as Trump started with his talk of COVID “magically” disappearing, he began to understand the challenge before him. He says he didn’t want to “proactively go out and volunteer my contradiction of what the president said,” but at the same time, he wasn’t going to back up the president’s ridiculous claims when questioned by a reporter. “I would have to get up and say, ‘No, I’m sorry, I do not think that is the case.’ It isn’t like I took any pleasure in contradicting the president of the United States. I have a great deal of respect for the office. But I made a decision that I just had to. Otherwise I would be compromising my own integrity, and be giving a false message to the world. If I didn’t speak up, it would be almost tacit approval that what he was saying was OK.”
Fauci says that’s when the trouble began for him within the administration. “The people around him, his inner circle, were quite upset that I would dare publicly contradict the president.” He mentions the White House press office sending out “a detailed list of things I said that turned out to be not true — all of which were nonsense because they were all true.”
Let that sink in. This professional in his field was having to fight the very administration he was working for in order to let the truth prevail, at great personal cost to him, including threats to his wife and children. “They knew where my kids work, where they live. The threats would come directly to my children’s phones, directly to my children’s homes. How the hell did whoever these assholes were get that information? And there was chatter on the internet, people talking to each other, threatening, saying, ‘Hey, we got to get rid of this guy. What are we going to do about him? He’s hurting the president’s chances.’ You know, that kind of right-wing craziness.”
So maybe those viral videos of happy Fauci in a post-Trump world kind of hit different now after hearing exactly what the hell this man was going through for the last year.
It’s hard to imagine the incredible relief Fauci feels after all these months of nonsense, but we love seeing him smile and talk science.
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