Anthony Fauci, the NIH’s face of the coronavirus
Anthony Fauci, M.D., the 79-year old head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has become the #1 point man on the government’s role in the coronavirus crisis. Fauci has worked for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) his entire professional life. In the past, for more than two decades starting in the mid-1980s, he was the medical establishment’s face of HIV-AIDS — omnipresent on television when AIDS was hot and ever present at international AIDS conferences well into the 21st century. Always, he was an enthusiastic advocate of throwing more federal money at the problem of AIDS. He’s widely praised in the press. He’s also held in high esteem by his medical peers. In 2008, President George W. Bush honored Fauci with the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A look back at what Fauci and his colleagues did during their decades of pushing fear and the spending of billions of dollars of funding for HIV-AIDS is instructive.
As an independent journalist, I covered the “war” on HIV-AIDS extensively starting in 1986 — just as the massive effort to combat the condition was gearing up. Eventually, the government’s spending on HIV-AIDS came to eclipse what was spent on the failed war on cancer that began in 1971, which is where my reporting on the politics of medicine and cancer had started.
After seeing a March 9, 2020 tweet by Shiva Ayyadurai, Ph.D., who has four degrees from MIT, I was inspired to take a look back to try to put Fauci’s current work on the coronavirus into some perspective.
One of the first things I found about Dr. Fauci, at the WikiLeaks Clinton email trove, was a gushing 2013 email that Fauci had sent to Cheryl Mills, one of Hillary Clinton;s top aides, praising the then–secretary of state for her congressional testimony on Benghazi.
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:21 PM
Subject: FW: Today’s performance From your doctor admirer
From: Fauci, Anthony (NIH/NIAID)
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:10 PM
To: Mills, Cheryl D
Subject: Today’s performance
Cheryl: Anyone who had any doubts about the Secretary’s stamina and capability following her illness had those doubts washed away by today’s performance before the Senate and the House. She faced extremely difficult circumstances at the Hearings and still she hit it right out of the park.
Please tell her that we all love her and are very proud to know her.
Anthony S. Fauci, MD Director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Building 31, Room 7A-03 31 Center Drive,
MSC 2520 National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD 20892-2520
OK, fine. So Fauci’s a typical, deeply embedded administrative state hack who can be expected to be obsequious to his political bosses like Mrs. Clinton. But there’s more to it than that.
Careful observers have noted that after the almost daily White House news conferences with President Trump and members of the Coronavirus Task Force, Fauci, a regular attendee and the task force’s chief medical spokesman, often runs to Trump-hating media like CNN to contradict — usually with a degree of nuance that gives him plausible deniability — what the president has just said. The Daily Mail of London noted this behavior in a March 20 article, “Dr Anthony Fauci caught rolling his eyes and smirking as President Trump rants about the ‘deep state’ during coronavirus press conference.”
That’s Fauci now, subtly undercutting the president — how about back then?
Anthony Fauci, M.D. has been the director of the NIAID since 1984, and for the next two-plus decades, when HIV-AIDS was the ticket, Fauci was the cheerleading team captain of the effort. In 2006, for a PBS documentary on AIDS, Fauci gave a long interview boasting about his role in the AIDS war, the full transcript of which is still online here.
One of Fauci’s fondest memories of his frontline scientific work on AIDS is this gem. In his own words:
I remember a conversation late into the middle of the night in my home with Bono as we were eating pasta that I cooked for him in my back porch talking about what the best way to go about this thing is. You have a rock star talking to me who is helping to put together something for the president, and we’re getting bipartisan support, which is sometimes unusual in this city. We are clearly getting bipartisan support for this. It was really a wonderful thing that happened.
In 2005, I wrote an article about Live 8, a now-forgotten international series of rock concerts to raise awareness about AIDS in Africa that was the handiwork of the rock band U2’s front man Bono (real name Paul Hewson) and former Boomtown Rats singer Sir Bob Geldof.
As I noted at the time:
While most politicians and virtually all of the media are swooning over the Live 8 event and the opinions, recommendations, and demands of Bono, Geldof, and their compatriots, some observers are not impressed. In a “Viewpoint” column, “What Do Rock Stars Know About the World?,” published June 28  on the BBC’s Web site, Brendan O’Neill observes that “World leaders seek an audience with Bono in the way they might once have sought an audience with the Pope.” O’Neill mentions James Panton, a lecturer in politics at Oxford University. Panton, according to O’Neill, “thinks it is the ‘exhaustion of political vision’ that has allowed ‘these petty celebrities with their banal and limited arguments to take center stage. And that’s a bad thing,’ he argues. Panton says, ‘It is a frightening indictment of the state of politics to see people like Gordon Brown [the heir apparent to British Prime Minister Tony Blair] kowtowing to people like Geldof.'”
The real bottom line of what Fauci and his colleagues achieved over two decades was much more serious than hanging out with “petty” celebrities. It was the achievement of a near-total preoccupation with AIDS to the major detriment of much more serious diseases — most of them conditions for which the causes were not known and not the result of personal lifestyle choices (primarily unprotected sex among homosexuals and injecting illegal drugs). In The AIDS Epidemic: Social Dimensions Of An Infectious Disease, author William Rushing takes note of “alarming statements” about the potential of AIDS that were being made by “medical professionals and scientists” — many of them like Fauci in policy-making positions. These statements were the basis of high profile exaggerated warnings like the one issued by Oprah Winfrey on her number one afternoon TV talk show on Feb. 18, 1987 that “one in five heterosexuals could be dead from AIDS in the next three years.”
Thirty-three years ago now, that fear-mongering never panned out and it did not lead to country-wide shut downs of almost everything — rather a boondoggle of spending on HIV-AIDS research that dwarfed all other medical spending.
As I wrote in 2003:
For years, both types of diabetes have been given short shrift in favor of conditions like AIDS that have better organized and more vocal constituencies or are considered to be more politically correct. The government currently spends 40 to 100 times as much on AIDS research per AIDS death when compared to diabetes for every death from diabetes.
This chart below clearly illustrates the results of the efforts by Fauci and his colleagues: