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The Cult Comes for Dr. Fauci

Death threats, #FauciFraud, and the Deep State—Trump's bitter-enders have a new object of hatred.
April 3, 2020
The Cult Comes for Dr. Fauci
(Illustration by Hannah Yoest / Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

Here is where we are now that the American president has acknowledged that we face one of one of the worst crises in our history:

Doctor Anthony Fauci—the government’s our foremost expert on immunology and infectious diseases who has advised every president in our lifetime without anyone so much as noticing—has become a bobblehead doll.

It’s a great story: The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum decided to capitalize on his hero status by selling little Fauci bobbleheads for $25, with $5 from each purchase being donated toward the 100 million mask challenge.

A less great story: At nearly the same moment Fauci was becoming an unexpected pop icon, he also had to get a security detail. Because there is a coterie of sick people hoovering poisonous online conspiracies about Fauci and they are now threatening his life.

That’s right—the one bright light in this dark chapter had to be sullied, and then endangered, by seething Trumpkins.

When asked Thursday about the nine special agents now required to protect him Fauci told NBC: “I’ve chosen this life. I know what it is. There are things about it that sometimes are disturbing. But you just focus on the job you have to do. . . . We have a really, really, very, very difficult situation ahead of us. All of that other stuff is secondary.”

But just because Fauci is sanguine about the situation, doesn’t mean we should be.

Fauci, who says his only ideology “is health,” has been forced to correct many of the misstatements and lies emanating from his boss, Donald Trump.

Weeks ago Fauci conceded our lack of early testing infrastructure was “a failure” even as Trump was insisting that anyone who wanted a test could get a test.

Fauci had to contradict President Trump several times about the speed with which a vaccine would be developed to control the virus—it would be at least 12 to 18 months—after Trump kept promising that “we are very close” to having a vaccine.

Fauci has, from day one, made it clear that social distancing was crucial to slowing the infection rate. He doesn’t fear stark language and seems to understand that the best way to break through to the public is to talk clearly and honestly about the facts. He repeatedly insisted that “we are not overreacting”—and viral spread and death tolls prove that he was correct.

To normal people, Fauci’s forthrightness has been a blessing. To the alt-universe conspiracists, his frankness is an affront to their troll king.

And they have other grievances, too.

For example, Fauci is guilty of covering his face with his hand to stop from openly laughing when Trump called Mike Pompeo secretary of the “Deep State Department” during a White House briefing on the global pandemic that was soon to kill more Americans than 9/11.

Also, he once sent an email to a staffer for Hillary Clinton in 2013 remarking on her stamina during the 11 hours of Benghazi hearings. Which made him, obviously, a “Deep-State ­Hillary Clinton-loving stooge.”

Naturally, an online campaign accusing Fauci of actively opposing President Trump has been underway for weeks, with #FauciFraud fueled by people like Tim Fitton of Judicial Watch and the legendary Bill Mitchell.

Over on you can find Mike Church warning people “Don’t Let Dr. Faucis’s Fake Science Make You Die of COVID-19 Hysteria!” Church must be a secret Darwinist, because here he is telling his audience, “Please do yourself a favor and avoid the mainstream media, which is killing people with hype.”

It’s truly depressing that there is a segment of Americans eager to turn someone like Fauci from a unifying, trusted leader into another tribal enemy.

Anyone watching Fauci at White House briefings or in numerous interviews can easily see what those of us who have had the privilege of interviewing him know: He is as measured and calm and reasonable and accessible and gifted at explaining complex epidemiology and infectious threats as we could ever hope for in a public health expert.

Despite a draining day job at the National Institutes of Health, he is leading the White House Coronavirus task force, and in the three months since the start of this year alone has already published nine research papers (on COVID-19, HIV, Tuberculosis, and novel vaccine technologies).

In between helping Mike Pence with the substance of the government’s response, and dealing with the fallout from Trump’s lies and delusions and off-the-cuff promises, Fauci has spent every other waking moment giving interviews across across the spectrum in an attempt to get as much good information out to citizens as possible. He’s talked with medical and political podcasts, YouTube shows and Facebook and Instagram livestreams. He’s made time for Maureen Dowd and Mark Levin, Trevor Noah and Steph Curry. The guy is moving heaven and earth to educate the public through any avenue he can find.

In addition, if there was ever tension between Trump and Fauci it was kept stuffed in private rooms and has clearly since dissipated now that Trump has accepted the pandemic as “a matter of life and death,” and taken to citing Fauci’s college basketball prowess.

When asked Wednesday why Fauci would need security, President Trump, in a rare moment of genuine warmth said “he doesn’t need security. Everybody loves him.”

It’s enough to make you wonder why, just this one time, the president’s cultists won’t believe him.

A.B. Stoddard

A.B. Stoddard is a columnist at The Bulwark. Previously, she was associate editor and columnist at RealClearPolitics.