A trove of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s emails reveal he was less than truthful in public about concerns over the origin of the virus and the efficacy of masks. Clearly, this is big news, but unfortunately the media shames itself yet again in response, from complete puff pieces on their folk hero to false fact checks. Either way, Dr. Fauci has a lot to answer for…
Last week, BuzzFeed news published 3,200 pages of emails from the good Dr. Anthony Fauci’s government in-box. The emails were procured as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, and span January to June 2020, the heart of the initial response to the pandemic. The Washington Post also published some 860 pages from March and April that same year. CNN received emails as well, and amazingly didn’t publish them because “many were heavily redacted.” Somehow, that never stopped them when Trump was involved, but that’s beside the point. The emails themselves raise troubling questions about Dr. Fauci’s truthfulness during a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives. From the efficacy of masks to the origin of the virus itself, it certainly appears he said one thing in private and then another in front of the cameras.
First, the origin. In an email exchange with virologist Kristian Anderson, Fauci discussed the possible origin of the coronavirus. On January 31, Dr. Fauci emailed Dr. Andersen and Jeremy Farrar, director of a U.K. health research foundation, a copy of an article from Science, “Mining coronavirus genomes for clues to the outbreaks origins,” that outlines possible scenarios for the start of the pandemic. Dr. Fauci noted, “This just came out today. You may have seen it. If not, it’s of interest to the current discussion.” Dr. Andersen replied that he and Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Sydney were quoted in the article, and that they were studying the genome of the virus to determine its origin.
Dr. Andersen then explained, “the unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered. We have a good team lined up to look very critically at this, so we should know much more by the end of the weekend.” Read that again: The genome has “unusual features” that look “potentially” “engineered.” It gets worse, Dr. Andersen also reported that he’d discussed this with colleagues, and “all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory. But we have to look at this much more closely and there are still further analyses to be done, so those opinions could still change.”
Nor was this the only time that Dr. Fauci expressed interest that the virus might have come from a lab. On February 1, he emailed a colleague, Hugh Auchincloss, and said “It is essential that we speak this AM…Read this paper as well as the email that I will forward you now. You will have tasks that must be done.” The paper attached to this and the subsequent email was on gain of function research in SARS viruses, yes that same sort of research that we were funding at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Coronavirus, of course, just happens to be a SARS virus.
About 6 weeks later, however, Dr. Andersen and his team published an article in Nature Medicine claiming the virus originated naturally and could not have come from a lab. Completely gone were the inexplicable aspects of the genome that could not have arisen via normal evolution. On April 18, Dr. Fauci was asked point blank at a coronavirus briefing, “Could you address these suggestions or concerns that this virus was somehow manmade, possibly came out of a laboratory in China?” Dr. Fauci replied without hesitation, “There was a study recently that we can make available to you, where a group of highly qualified evolutionary virologists looked at the sequences there and the sequences in bats as they evolve. And the mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.”
Dr. Fauci made no mention that he had been in touch with the study group back when they had identified and then summarily dismissed inexplicable portions of the genome, or that he had shared information about gain of function research. Whatever the still unknown truth, Fauci was himself considering the lab origin theory while The New York Times and other media outlets were branding Senator Tom Cotton and others as conspiracy theorists pushing fringe, racist ideas for merely mentioning that the virus might not have originated naturally. Yet, he said nothing, allowing a US Senator and others to be smeared in public simply for voicing concerns he himself had.
Dr. Andersen has yet to fully explain himself either. He was confronted on Twitter by a professor of environmental studies from the University of Colorado Boulder, Roger Pielke, Jr., to explain how he got from “all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory” to the virus must’ve arisen naturally. Rather than actually explain how these inconsistent parts of the genome, acknowledged by all, were somehow found consistent, Andersen completely punted, “it specifically means we thought—on preliminary look—that the virus could have been engineered and/or manipulated. Turns out the data suggest otherwise—which is the conclusion of our paper.” He then hid behind the scientific process, “What the email shows is a clear example of the scientific process.” Alas, this is far from the scientific process: The genome is the genome. What new data did they receive and where did it come from? Notice that he doesn’t explain what this data was or how it impacted the findings. If something appears inexplicable, the scientist’s job is to explain how it becomes explicable. Dr. Andersen, however, did no such thing.
Second, we come to the mask fiasco. On February 4, Sylvia Burwell, a former secretary of Health and Human Services and then-president of American University, emailed Dr. Fauci asking if she should wear a mask while traveling. “Tony … I am traveling to [REDACTED]. Folks are suggesting I take a mask for the airport. Is this something I should do?” Dr. Fauci replied the following morning, “Sylvia: Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection.” He continued, “The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep[ing] out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you. I do not recommend that you wear a mask, particularly since you are going to a very low risk location.”
If you remember, this was back in the early days of the pandemic when literally no one was pushing masks. Dr. Fauci said specifically in public, “there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask” on March 8, 2020. In April, however, he completely reversed course and masking became the end-all-be-all of fighting the pandemic to the point where then-candidate Joe Biden literally campaigned on a 100-day mask mandate.
He attributed his change in position to wanting to protect supplies for healthcare workers, he and others “were concerned the public health community, and many people were saying this, were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply.” This was in mid-June. He continued, “Masks are not 100 percent protective. However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask. Both to prevent you, if you happen to be a person who maybe feels well, but has an asymptomatic infection that you don’t even know about, to prevent you from infecting someone else. But also, it can protect you a certain degree, not a hundred percent, in protecting you from getting infected from someone who, either is breathing, or coughing, or sneezing, or singing or whatever it is in which the droplets or the aerosols go out. So masks work. The important thing is actually physical separation.”
This of course has turned out to be a complete falsehood. The 6-feet rule was based on a study literally from the late-1800’s and that study only considered the spread of physical droplets, not an airborne virus. As we have seen, an airborne virus circulates around a room in seconds without or without a mask. The obsession with masking was based on the same principle of droplet spread, but Dr. Fauci had it correct in private when he said the virus “is small enough to pass through the material” and the “typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective.” We should note that there was no new “science” between February and June. If a dime-store mask wasn’t effective in February, they didn’t suddenly become more effective four months later. Meaning, there is no way to conclude that Fauci was not spreading falsehoods: He knew the truth, but said pretty much the complete opposite for whatever reason.
Perhaps, I’m being overly harsh. I understand that lying is a strong word and maybe there is another explanation. At the same time, it is clear that, at least on these two critical issues, Fauci has not been completely truthful. Therefore, he should be made to answer for the discrepancies and more of his correspondence should be made public for additional scrutiny; these are life and death matters, and he is accountable to the people as a government employee. Beyond that, this is huge news by any definition: The face of the pandemic, the most prominent public health professional in the country, and practical folk hero in liberal circles has been revealed as saying one thing and doing another, if not outright lying.
Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the view of the mainstream media. CNN, for example, is praising Fauci rather than roasting him. Well, praising and taking shots at Trump to be precise, “While many federal government staffers prefer the phone to email, this correspondence offers a rare glimpse into Fauci’s frantic schedule and polite, to-the-point demeanor during the time he emerged as a rare source of frank honesty within the Trump administration’s Covid-19 task force.”
They continue to bemoan how hard he worked, and how tired he was, the poor doctor, only the highest paid employee in the entire Federal Government at over $400,000 a year. “But they also reveal the weight that came with the role. ‘This is White House in full overdrive and I am in the middle of it,’ Fauci wrote in a February 2 email published by BuzzFeed. ‘Reminiscent of post-anthrax days.’” Aside from the navel-gazing spin, one would be remiss not to point out that the media, including CNN, told us repeatedly that Trump didn’t take the virus seriously early on and hence had literal blood on their hands, but now to duck, dodge, and weave for Dr. Fauci, they are completely fine promoting the idea that the White House was in “full overdrive” and poor Dr. Fauci was exhausted from the strain.
Shouldn’t they fact-check that claim with their other claims that Trump wasted valuable months doing nothing?
Instead, CNN provides additional sympathetic coverage on the stress. “I am really tired. Not much sleep these days.” They report on how Howard Bauchner, the editor in chief of the health journal JAMA emailed Dr. Fauci on February 5, “You surviving — worried a bit about your workload.” “Am hanging in there,” Fauci replied. “Feels like my internship and first year residency when I was on every other night and every other weekend, but actually never left the hospital because the patients were so sick.” They mention that Fauci’s boss, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins told him to “Get some sleep!” The retell how Dr. Fauci told Wolf Blitzer in June that he was “chronically fatigued, I don’t get a lot of sleep.” Then they conclude, “if the exhaustion ever turned to frustration, Fauci certainly never let it show. His exchanges — however short — always seemed pleasant.” They even find time to go on about how the good doctor always had time for everyone, even total strangers. “Oh my god,” a person who contacted Fauci in March replied. “I honestly never expected you to reply and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so generous.”
What they don’t do, however, is actually mention any of the controversial topics in the emails, as if Fauci never said masks were ineffective, especially the drug store variety the average person wore, or that he had doubts about the origin of the virus, but I guess that’s not important when you’re busy giving even puff pieces a bad name. Alas, the rest of the media was no better. The Washington Post poo-pooed the “alleged ‘smoking gun” emails.” USA Today fact-checked claims he lied about masks, saying they were “missing context,” now the default dodge when they don’t want you to conclude the content says what it actually says. The BBC wondered why we were talking about the emails in the first place, “Why are people talking about Dr Anthony Fauci’s emails.”
The situation was no better when Dr. Fauci appeared on friendly news shows this past weekend. Like Dr. Andersen, he hid behind the scientific method like a shield. “It’s really very much an attack on science,” he claimed during an interview with Rachel Maddow. “I mean, it is what it is. I’m a public figure, I’m going to take the arrows and the slings, but they’re just — they’re fabricated, and that’s just what it is.” Fabricated, his own emails? Not willing to be left out of the shameful episode, Facebook is even getting in on the act and suppressing posts about these apparently fabricated emails, even those that simply reprint what he wrote.
For those who fancy themselves heroes that speak truth to power, this is an odd state of affairs to say the least. Instead of digging into the story, they’re too busy sucking up to one of the most powerful voices in the country on a matter of the utmost importance to the world. Is it any wonder conservatives like myself trust neither the good doctor nor the mainstream media on coronavirus or anything else? Instead of Democracy Dies in Darkness, perhaps their new slogan should be Don’t Believe Your Own Lying Eyes.