Scientist Attacked Over Emails. No, Not a Climate Scientist

June 5, 2021

Take out-of-context email quote, blow up into bogus scandal, attack the messenger.
Rinse and repeat.


More than 3,200 pages of emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by BuzzFeed News — covering the period from January to June 2020 — provide a rare glimpse into how Fauci approached his job during the biggest health crisis of the last century, showing him dealing directly with the public, health officials, reporters, and even celebrities. (The Washington Post also received more than 800 pages of emails and published a story about them on Monday.)

The emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News reveal him sparring over an antiviral drug with Ezekiel Emanuel, a former Obama administration health adviser, fielding questions about vaccines, and receiving an update from Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s plans for a coronavirus “information hub.” Zuckerberg also asked whether the social media company could provide resources to accelerate vaccine testing. And Fauci even responded to an offer from actor Morgan Fairchild to use her Twitter account on his behalf.


Some conservative politicians and media pundits have cited the emails in their calls to sack Dr Fauci for his work on the pandemic response.

US Senator Rand Paul, a Republican who has frequently clashed with Dr Fauci in hearings on Capitol Hill, said the emails make it “abundantly clear” the doctor is “a massive fraud”.

Michael Mann in Newsweek:

Those of us on the front lines of the climate wars know how it feels. For decades, we’ve been under assault by politicians and fossil fuel attack dogs because of the inconvenient nature of our science—science that demonstrates the reality of climate change.

I have received death threats, and endured a multitude of attacks from conservative media outlets, Republican congressmen and attorneys general, all because of the “Hockey Stick” graph my co-authors and I published more than two decades ago. The Hockey Stick demonstrated the devastating effect burning fossil fuels has on our planet—and therefore threatened those profiting off them. So they sought to discredit my science and me personally, while orchestrating a campaign of vilification against climate scientists like me.

Now, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, represents a threat to Donald Trump. Fauci’s prescription (and that of the mainstream public health community)—continued social distancing to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic—is undeniably in the best public interest, and the economy cannot recover until the virus is under control. Yet Trump believes he needs results fast to win re-election, and so he is ignoring Fauci’s advice and reopening the economy as the United States surpasses 5 million cases and 160,000 deaths.

It is sadly unsurprising that Fauci, too, has found himself at the receiving end of death threats. It’s the logical conclusion of a concerted, months-long disinformation campaign by Trump supported by Republicans and conservative news organizations. As Steve Schmidt, former presidential campaign co-adviser for the late Senator John McCain, put it: “The injury done to America and the public good by Fox News and a bevy of personalities from Limbaugh to Ingraham…will be felt for many years in this country as we deal with the death and economic damage that didn’t have to be.”

Fox News and other right-wing media have resorted to orchestrated character attacks against Fauci, simply because he refused to act as a rubber stamp for Trump’s most misguided coronavirus policy gambits. Media Matters described the phenomenon: “Despite his credibility established over decades as a public health official, right-wing media have begun to launch attacks against [him], blaming the medical expert for allegedly harming the economy and undermining President Donald Trump.”

Central to the campaign to vilify our leading public health official during a pandemic has been Tucker Carlson. The Fox News host has used his nightly program to denounce Fauci as a “flawed” individual who is “maybe even more off-base than your average epidemiologist.” Carlson complained that Fauci “has become one of the most powerful people in the world” and even claimed he could become a “dictator for the duration of this crisis.” One is struck by the ironic mendacity of these accusations, given that they are true for Trump rather than Fauci.

We see other remarkable parallels between the right-wing coronavirus and climate change disinformation campaigns. Mirroring the “climategate” smear campaign of 2010, wherein fossil fuel interests and their abettors sought to discredit climate scientists by misrepresenting their words and phrases from stolen emails, the Trump administration went so far as to circulate an opposition research document cherry-picking and misrepresenting Fauci’s past statements in an effort to discredit him as a scientist and as a messenger.

When it comes to the agenda of inactivism, we once again witness the transition from denial to false solutions, and then, eventually, to “it’s good for us.” That took decadeswith climate deniers, but with coronavirus it happened in a matter of weeks. As former CBS News anchor Dan Rather noted: “After years when we should have learned of the dangers of ‘false equivalence,’ it baffles me that we are seeing a framing that pits the health of our citizens against some vague notion of getting back to work.” I noted, in turn, that it’s “not unlike the false equivalence…that pits the health of our entire planet against some vague notion of economic prosperity.”

Those of us on the front lines of the climate battle recognize that the stakes are too high for us to submit to the politically motivated forces of inaction. As I wrote several years ago in The New York Times:

“There is nothing inappropriate at all about drawing on our scientific knowledge to speak out about the very real implications of our research. If scientists choose not to engage in the public debate, we leave a vacuum that will be filled by those whose agenda is one of short-term self-interest. There is a great cost to society if scientists fail to participate in the larger conversation—if we do not do all we can to ensure that the policy debate is informed by an honest assessment of the risks. In fact, it would be an abrogation of our responsibility to society if we remained quiet in the face of such a grave threat.”

It’s clear that Fauci and other health professionals who continue to speak out, despite the attacks against them, recognize that as well. It is critical that they continue to fight back against the forces of disinformation. As I recently told CNN’s Bill Weir, “If there is a silver lining, it is that the failure of the current administration to respond meaningfully to the pandemic lays bare the deadliness of ideologically motivated science denial. This applies to the even greater crisis of human-caused climate change and the need to treat it as the emergency it is.”


3 Responses to “Scientist Attacked Over Emails. No, Not a Climate Scientist”

  1. neilrieck Says:

    Not taking sides here, but didn’t Politico publish a report saying that President Donald Trump published a lie, on average, every 8-minutes. The only lie I recall Fauci telling was the one where he said that a higher percentage of vaccinations would be required to achieve “herd immunity”.

    I find it rich when politicians “point the finger” accusing someone of lying when politicians lie all the time.

    • ecoquant Says:

      The only lie I recall Fauci telling was the one where he said that a higher percentage of vaccinations would be required to achieve “herd immunity”.

      And how is that claim “a lie”? What’s your definition, quantitative objective standard, model, and citation for the claim Dr Fauci was incorrect?

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