BECAUSE HE’S A BULLY AND A FRAUD? Why Many Americans Turned on Anthony Fauci.
But however much truth there is to the story that Dr. Fauci was a victim of our polarized era and broken media environment, it is also partial and simplistic. It amounts to insisting that skepticism of the good doctor must have been everyone’s fault but his own.
And attachment to this story is peculiar because there has been a growing willingness by mainstream observers, and even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to admit that the public health response to Covid-19 was in many ways a failure. It failed the million Americans who died. And it failed the living by being bumbling and incoherent. No one seemed able to define what counted as a victory, and for much of the pandemic the response was fixated on restrictions and halfhearted about tools like rapid testing and ventilation that could relieve those restrictions. One of the best national data dashboards was made not by the government but by The Atlantic.
Dr. Fauci became the face of American public health’s incoherent response to the pandemic. He urged the country to shut down weeks after dismissing early Covid worries as a baseless fear of “going to a Chinese restaurant”; he encouraged masking weeks after counseling against it; he aggressively cast the lab leak theory as fringe (though possible) despite many scientists wanting more to be done on lab safety. Just this April, Dr. Fauci said one day that we were “out of the pandemic phase” and the next day that we were “still experiencing a pandemic.”
Might Americans have mistrusted Dr. Fauci not only because of nefarious political forces but also because he gave them reason to believe that something was amiss in the citadels of science. . . .
Consider the flip-flop on masking. In that interview with Mr. Zuckerberg, Dr. Fauci said that he had initially advised against widespread masking because scientists then did not know that homemade cloth masks worked and needed to preserve professional-grade masks for health care workers. This is a reasonable-sounding explanation that is simply not what he said in February and March of that year: that even store-bought masks did not offer good protection, that “people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face,” and that unless you were infected “there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to wear a mask.” He also said in July that scientists changed guidance once they learned the extent that Covid could spread asymptomatically — even though he had said in January there was “no doubt” it could. . . .
Talking to Mr. Zuckerberg, Dr. Fauci toed a perilous line by invoking the scientific method as justification for the inconsistencies. This suggested that because science is all about change, scientists’ mistakes aren’t really failures. In 2021 he would say that his foes were “really criticizing science, because I represent science,” implying that the only possible reason to criticize him was animus toward science.
It was this that became so destructive to trust: the idea that science is a force that demands things of the public yet relieves leaders of accountability.
Like I said. And note that what was “dangerous misinformation” worth of unpersoning a couple of years ago is now being published in the New York Times. That doesn’t inspire confidence either.