Dr Anthony Fauci said he and his family have received “serious threats” in a new interview on Thursday, as Donald Trump's White House reportedly staged an effort to discredit the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.
As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984, Dr Fauci compared the hate mail he received while working with AIDS activists during the HIV crisis to the threats he now faces as a member of the White House coronavirus response task force while speaking on David Axelrod’s “The Axe Files” podcast.
“It’s really a magnitude different,” the epidemiologist said. “As much as people inappropriately, I think, make me somewhat of a hero … there are people who get really angry at thinking I’m interfering with their life because I’m pushing a public health agenda.”
Dr Fauci has been at odds with the Trump administration at times over its plans to reopen states still battling a rise in coronavirus infections, with the US surpassing 140,000 total deaths resulting from the pandemic. His strong advocacy for social distancing and self-isolation measures to remain in place have led to “serious threats against me, against my family … my daughters, my wife”, he said on Thursday, adding: “I mean, really? Is this the United States of America?”
The threats Dr Fauci has faced amid the Covid-19 outbreak were more aggressive than those he received during the HIV and AIDS crisis, the doctor suggested during the interview, saying: “I’ve seen a side of society that I guess is understandable but it’s a little bit disturbing.”
“Back in the days of HIV when I was being criticized with some hate mail, it was, you know, people calling me a gay-lover and 'what the hell are you wasting a lot of time on that’,” he continued. “Things that you would just push aside as stupid people saying stupid things.”
While the president has recently said in public statements that he respects Dr Fauci, Mr Trump and his close allies have reportedly sought to undermine the epidemiologist as having made “mistakes” throughout the pandemic. White House officials have listed comments Dr Fauci made they claimed were erroneous, with White House trade adviser Peter Navarro going so far as to publish an Op-Ed criticising the NIAID director.
In response to the attempts to discredit him, Dr Fauci said at the time that he couldn’t “figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that”.
He added: “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them.”
Several states that reopened amid the pandemic have since announced returns to phase one, effectively meaning lockdown orders would remain in place as the novel virus continued spreading in both rural and urban parts of the country.
“I can understand very well that you have to be careful because of the negative consequences of things like shutting down,” Dr Fauci said on Thursday. “But the hostility against public health issues is difficult not only to understand, but difficult to even process.”
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