Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, has had to hire security to protect himself and his family after receiving death threats in response to his work to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus taskforce, told CNN that the pandemic has brought out “the best of people and the worst of people and you know getting death threats for me and my family and harassing my daughters to the point where I have to get security, it’s amazing”.
Donald Trump’s administration has consistently downplayed the public health threat of coronavirus, but Fauci has just as consistently rejected those efforts. Since the early days of the pandemic, Fauci has provided blunt assessments of the crisis in media appearances and in remarks at the White House, which have been less frequent in recent months.
“I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that people who object to things that are pure public health principles are so set against it and don’t like what you and I say, namely in the world of science, that they actually threaten you,” said Fauci.
The US has recorded more than 158,000 Covid-19 related deaths and more than 4.8m coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, far more than any other country in the world.
In an interview with Politico’s Pulse Check podcast released on Thursday, Fauci was more specific about the threats against his family and said he had worked to ignore the conspiracy theories about him online.
“There’s one thing about that nonsense that I do object to, and that is the effect that it has on my family,” the doctor added. “Because when you get death threats that require you having security protection all the time, and when they start hassling your children on the phone and at their job and interfering with their lives, that pisses me off. I must say.”
In July, Trump officials and advisers publicly undermined Fauci and attempted to discredit his expertise. The White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro, went as far as to attack Fauci in an op-ed in the USA Today newspaper, where he said he treats the doctor’s advice with “skepticism and caution”.
After Navarro’s article was published, Trump insisted he had a good relationship with Fauci, who has served under six presidents in his 35 years as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Niaid) at the National Institutes of Health.
But on Saturday, Trump wrote “wrong!” in a tweet that included a video of Fauci talking about how the US has seen more cases than other countries because it only did a partial shutdown earlier in the year. Three days later, Trump publicly admonished another member of the coronavirus taskforce, Deborah Birx.
Anonymous sources told the Washington Post in April that Fauci required personal security from law enforcement at all times because of the threats to his personal safety, as well as overzealous communications from his supporters.