The Washington Post reported Sunday that the Trump White House is seeking to minimize the public profile of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and even to discredit his position with the public over the coronavirus pandemic.
The Post reported: "A White House official released a statement saying that 'several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things' and included a lengthy list of the scientist's comments from early in the outbreak."
This echoes what right-wing media figures have been saying in recent days.
There has been a slow build-up of new anti-Fauci statements in right-wing media over the past two weeks, perhaps mirroring (or feeding) the White House's critiques of Fauci's early statements on such matters as mask wearing and person-to-person transmission.Fauci's stances evolved over time on those matters as more information about the virus became known.
And the bottom line, according to these right-wing narratives, is that Fauci is Trump's enemy.
On the July 2 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the eponymous host singled out a comment that Fauci had made during a January 22 appearance on Fox Business' Bulls & Bears, telling the panel that the Chinese government was being transparent about the virus.
"Many were skeptical that the Chinese government could be trusted to describe what was really happening. But those skeptics were assured by one man, Dr. Tony Fauci," Carlson said sarcastically — failing to note that President Donald Trump himself had repeatedly praised the Chinese government's response for weeks after that cherry-picked Fauci comment.
On the July 5 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz, Fox contributor and Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway accused Fauci of inconsistency on masks:
HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): Mollie, why has Anthony Fauci become such a lighting rod on the right? There's plenty of other examples besides the one I just played.
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Yeah. No, I'm not sure why exactly. But he is someone who has also been a little bit inconsistent in his messaging and has a responsibility for that. You know, back in March, claiming that there was no need for anyone to wear masks. And now he says there is. That does also hurt trust. But more than anything, I think, he's a public health talking head.
That doesn't make him an expert on everything. And he's been someone who hasn't been particularly good at thinking through the downsides of some of the things that he's recommended. He's not an expert in what happens when you keep children out of school or forbid them for entering school, you know, in the coming year. He's not an expert in all of the consequences of lockdown in terms of anxiety and loneliness and fear and joblessness, and economic ruin.
On the July 9 edition of Hannity, Trump himself criticized Fauci, using the same narrative seen in right-wing media: "Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes. … They've been wrong about a lot of things, including face masks. Maybe they are wrong, maybe not. But a lot of them said, don't wear a mask, don't wear a mask. And now they are saying, wear a mask. So, a lot of mistakes were made, a lot of mistakes."
Later that night on The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham spun a conspiracy theory that "the left started to freak out a little bit" at the prospect of the country reopening. "So how could they keep the panic and anxiety going to ensure a Biden victory?" she asked rhetorically — then showing video of Fauci recommending that states should consider locking down again if they have serious outbreaks.
On July 10, The Federalist ran an article titled "Why We Can't Trust Anything 'The Science' Says Any More." While the article's text did not mention Fauci by name, it prominently displayed a photo of him at the top of the piece:
The article complained:
In recent months, we've been told that "science says" so many contradictory and even flat-out false things, it's hard to even keep track of them all.
Science says don't wear a mask. Except that you absolutely should wear a mask. Even though it isn't recommended by medical scientists using data from other respiratory disease outbreaks. But it's still helpful. Or actually it's not really, according to the Centers for Disease Control in 2017. Yet you should still wear a mask, or else. Who knows?
Also that day, Rush Limbaugh levied the accusation of inconsistency at both Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Here's Dr. Fauci, unassailable. 'You know, we need to think about locking down again — uh, uh, uh, no — OK, no, since the market's tanked, we can just pause the reopening,'" Limbaugh said. "And then the CDC comes along and says it'd be safer for the kids to put them in classrooms than to keep them at home."
On the July 10 edition of Fox host Mark Levin's talk radio show, the host concurred with Trump's musings for less coronavirus testing, and then added: "Dr. Fauci says, 'Let's not look at the mortality rate, that doesn't tell us anything.' This guy, may I say this respectfully, is becoming a quack. Did I say quack? I said quack! 'Don't wear masks' — now in some states, you better wear a mask."
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