When Donald Trump finally left the White House on January 20, the world heaved a collective sigh of relief the likes of which had not been heard since May 8, 1945, i.e. the day Hitler’s reign of terror on Europe officially came to an end. One sigh that very likely rattled the windows and caused the medical textbooks to fall off of his shelves was that of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who spent the last year trying to stop a deadly virus while working for a guy who insisted things were getting better as they got worse and who preferred to take the advice of the MyPillow Guy over health experts. So you’ll have to forgive the doctor if he’s not done celebrating never having to work for Trump again and/or if he petitions Congress to make the last day he ever had to see or hear from the guy a national holiday.
On the most recent stop of the Fauci Unplugged Tour, the infectious disease expert detailed to The New York Times what it was like dealing with a colossal idiot who wanted doctors to look into injecting household cleaners into COVID-19 patients. According to Fauci, he first realized things were going off the rails during “the rapid escalation of cases in the northeastern part of the country.” He would try to explain just how bad things were and Trump, probably looking up from his phone where he was typing out incomprehensible tweets about the coronavirus being a Democratic hoax, would respond “Well, it’s not that bad, right?” To which Fauci, as though he was speaking to a small child would have to say “Yes, it is that bad,” which of course didn’t make a difference anyway because Trump barely listened to him or anyone else telling him anything he didn’t want to hear. Sayeth Fauci:
…the other thing that made me really concerned was, it was clear that he was getting input from people who were calling him up, I don’t know who, people he knew from business, saying, “Hey, I heard about this drug, isn’t it great?” or, “Boy, this convalescent plasma is really phenomenal.” And I would try to, you know, calmly explain that you find out if something works by doing an appropriate clinical trial; you get the information, you give it a peer review. And he’d say, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, this stuff really works.”
He would take just as seriously their opinion—based on no data, just anecdote—that something might really be important. It wasn’t just hydroxychloroquine, it was a variety of alternative-medicine-type approaches. It was always, “A guy called me up, a friend of mine from blah, blah, blah.” That’s when my anxiety started to escalate.
Yes, in the midst of a once-in-a-generation health crisis killing thousands of people a day, Trump was relying on the advice of a random group of yahoos the White House switchboard operators had express instructions to put through to him, people whose background in epidemiology we can only assume ranked somewhere between that of Mike Lindell and Jared Kushner. So you can probably understand why Fauci was feeling a bit stressed. Not to mention, the harassment of his family and death threats from the president’s followers, who were presumably worked up about Fauci’s insistence on deferring to facts:
It was the harassment of my wife, and particularly my children, that upset me more than anything else. They knew where my kids work, where they live. The threats would come directly to my children’s phones, directly to my children’s homes. How the hell did whoever these assholes were get that information? And there was chatter on the internet, people talking to each other, threatening, saying, “Hey, we got to get rid of this guy. What are we going to do about him? He’s hurting the president’s chances.” You know, that kind of right-wing craziness…one day I got a letter in the mail, I opened it up and a puff of powder came all over my face and my chest.
That was very, very disturbing to me and my wife because it was in my office. So I just looked at it all over me and said, “What do I do?” The security detail was there, and they’re very experienced in that. They said, “Don’t move, stay in the room.” And they got the hazmat people. So they came, they sprayed me down and all that.
What an exciting time that must have been! Say what you will about the other presidents Fauci has worked under—and there’s plenty, including the fact that Ronald Reagan ignored the AIDS crisis until the end of his second term—it doesn’t appear they worked their supporters into such a frenzy that they tried to get Fauci killed. (The powder in the envelope was a benign substance.)
Fauci’s unloading to the Times followed an absolutely giddy appearance in the White House briefing room last Thursday, during which he told the press corps that it was hugely freeing to not have to deal with a boss whose response to the pandemic was to just make shit up, and who believed facts were his enemy and anyone peddling such information was out to get him. (Contrasting that environment with that of the Biden administration, Fauci, with an ear-to-ear grin on his face, said, “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence and science is, and know that’s it—let the science speak—it is somewhat of a liberating feeling.”) Later in the week, he chatted with Rachel Maddow and explained that Trump and company had refused to allow him to appear on her show. “I’ve been wanting to come on your show for months and months. You’ve been asking me to come on your show for months and months,” he said. “And it’s just gotten blocked. Let’s call it what it is. It just got blocked because they didn’t like the way you handle things, and they didn’t want me on.”
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