The Overexposed Anthony Fauci

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Dr. Anthony Fauci looks on before testifying at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 20, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool via Reuters)

With a New York Times puff piece, a documentary, and an upcoming memoir, can he be expected to keep up?

The New York Times ran another feature  on Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been at the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for decades. In it, he takes a shot at the “far right,” as usual.

The occasion for the profile is the release of a feature-length documentary about Dr. Fauci, with interviews from admirers such as George W. Bush and Bono. The Times story’s subheadline reads this way:

“Fauci,” a new documentary, follows his work in two health crises: AIDS and the coronavirus pandemic. He agreed to participate as long as it didn’t interfere with his work.

If you picked up on the defensiveness in that, you’re not alone. Dr. Fauci indicates that he hated being criticized by far-right crazies for wanting to be a celebrity, because of a photo shoot he did last year — one of many. The profile writer assures us that “he has not had a single day off in 18 months and is exhausted.” Still and all, he’s collecting his notes for a memoir — a seven-figure contract surely in the bag — and he participated in this documentary, in which every critical word about him is uttered by someone spitting and identified as an unsympathetic crazy person. He admits that he does have a good nose for politics: “You’ve got to know what battles to fight, what battles not to fight,” he says, reflecting on his intelligence.

The one criticism allowed to slip through is a reference to his initial flip-flop on masks. But, even more recently, Dr. Fauci seems to be slipping up more and more. A few weeks ago, he was asked to comment on the video footage of packed southern college football stadiums. “I don’t think it’s smart,” he said. And yet, despite the dawn of football season and the southern states being uninterested in reimposing mask mandates, the Delta wave is collapsing in them? Fauci can read a chart like anyone else and has surely figured out that non-pharmaceutical interventions such as mask mandates make no substantive difference in the seasonal and regional waves of COVID. Surely he’s also noticed that every time someone predicts imminent doom from an outdoor gathering — especially one as unappealing to progressives as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally — nothing much happens. The expected revenge of cruel COVID on outdoor conservatives never comes. Then again, maybe this is just a case of knowing which battles to fight.

In the same segment, Fauci explained that everyone in the stadium should be vaccinated. Another flip-flop; earlier in the pandemic he had opposed mandates for vaccines.

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Fauci still retains the zeal of a convert on masks. Asked recently about young children wearing masks, he replied, “Unvaccinated children of a certain age greater than two years old should be wearing masks. . . . No doubt about that!”

No doubts, really? Masking young children is opposed by UNICEF and WHO, and most European countries have stopped doing it, if they ever did. Does he think scientists and doctors in the U.K. can’t read a chart or look up the same data he can? Yet even the U.K.’s advisers on vaccines view juvenile COVID as such a trivial risk that they refuse to recommend the “jabs” to healthy twelve- to 15-year-olds. But no doubts about two-year-olds wearing masks?

On CNBC, Fauci started to explain why he thought children should be vaccinated for COVID. He said while their risk was smaller, “we have lost more children from SARS-CoV-2 than we ever lose for influenza — and we vaccinate children against influenza.” This is just not true. Between April 1 and September 15 of this year, 146 minors died of COVID, many of them suffering from other severe complications. During flu season of 2017–2018, 172 children died of flu.

But, with a documentary to promote in a New York Times puff piece, and a memoir to write, how can we expect Dr. Fauci to know the basic facts about the pandemic he has been talking about on television nonstop for 18 months?

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