Anthony Fauci may have announced his decision to step away from public life but he will not be easily forgotten – and, for him, that is probably a concern. Documented evidence is surfacing that indicates the infectious disease expert and White House advisor tried to downplay the possibility that the COVID-19 pandemic began with a leak from a Chinese lab. Now Fauci appears to be doing one last round of damage control, knowing that Republicans in Congress are still looking for answers to a lot of questions regarding the newest coronavirus and Fauci’s part in the response to its outbreak.
Guardian reporter Jimmy Tobias tenaciously pursued a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) and finally obtained unredacted emails. They provide details of a certain Feb. 2020 conversation in which Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed COVID-19 with virologists. In short, the communications show the medical experts were aghast at the possibility that the laboratory in Wuhan, China, might have been conducting experiments with a virus that it was not equipped or certified to address. The lab in question is rated as BSL-2, a low-level biosafety laboratory.
Ignoring Potential COVID-19 Red Flags
Participants in the discussion also mulled the possibility of “accidental lab passage in animals.” The COVID-19 virus had been found to contain furin cleavage sites, which are not naturally occurring in other SARS-related coronaviruses. Furin is a protease enzyme and “cleavage site” refers to a place where furin enzymes split the spike protein in COVID-19. That all sounds fairly bewildering to us laypeople, but it essentially means the possibility that SARS-Cov-2 originated in a laboratory cannot be discounted. Fauci ignored the advice of one participant in the conversation who suggested that the FBI and Britain’s MI5 be alerted.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Fauci and other people presented as “experts” insisted the virus was first discovered in a bat.
Anthony Fauci (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
So, what is Fauci saying now that he’s on the way out the door but still facing intense scrutiny from congressional Republicans? Talking with CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” on Nov. 27, the epidemiologist insisted the preponderance of evidence points to a natural origin of COVID-19. He conceded, however, that the regime in China acts “secretive,” which, he acknowledged, “absolutely triggers an appropriate suspicion of, like, what the heck is going on over there?” He added, “We keep a completely open mind as to what the origin [of SARS-Cov-2] is.”
It was interesting to note, however, that Fauci also laid the blame for China’s refusal to answer questions about the origin of the virus on the Trump administration’s “anti-China approach.” The doctor’s whole attitude toward the Chinese appears very much to be one of sympathy, which will not do him any favors in the future congressional hearings to which he is certain to be summoned. Though Republicans will not control the Senate in the 118th Congress, it seems a safe bet that House GOPers will want to speak with Anthony Fauci. One of the new House majority’s big investigative targets will be the possible collusion between the Biden administration and social media companies to suppress what they deemed “misinformation.” The outgoing director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will almost certainly find himself swept up in that one.
During the pandemic, Anthony Fauci managed to promote and perhaps even guide an official narrative that shifted each time the facts caught up with it. Any information or opinions – even from highly qualified medical people – that went against this narrative was quashed. Some of those dissenting opinions, particularly regarding the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, have since been proven correct.
Anthony Fauci and Politics
While he claims that he is not a political animal, Fauci became a polarizing figure almost by accident. Many conservatives loathed him for his almost fanatical promotion of vaccines and his unwillingness to acknowledge China’s culpability in the global epidemic. A great many people on the left idolized him, presumably for the very same reasons – but mostly because, political animal or not, Fauci made it clear that he thought individual liberty should be suspended to serve the good of society. Delivering the 2021 Beatty Lecture at McGill University, the doctor responded to a question about individual freedom by saying, in part:
“I think each of us, particularly in the context of a pandemic that’s killing millions of people, you have got to look at it and say, there comes a time when you do have to give up what you consider your individual right of making your own decision for the greater good of society. There’s no doubt that that’s the case.”
That’s where politics comes in. Fauci may or may not consider himself loyal to the Republican Party or Democratic Party, but his views on personal freedom appear to indicate that he has a collectivist mentality – that, in his mind, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, so to speak. That is the very essence of the divide between what people generally term right-wing and left-wing. The former values personal freedom and the latter holds that self-determination must be sacrificed in the name of conformity to the group.
Like it or not, then, Anthony Fauci is a political animal, of sorts – just as everyone is. Whether one believes the doctor was trying to do what he thought best or allowed himself to become a patsy for a political agenda or pharmaceutical profits, he is in for a lot more withering criticism, some accusations, and more than a few uncomfortable questions – but probably also a good number of additional softball TV interviews, so that should cheer him up.