Anthony Fauci emails: Chaos reigned during pandemic's early days
Top disease expert Anthony Fauci's critical role and the chaos during the early days of the pandemic have been revealed thanks to a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The request has led to thousands of emails to and from Fauci being publicized, often in full, showing just how chaotic the early days of the pandemic were.
Since May 2020, Fauci has appeared on numerous TV shows, videos and podcasts in a bid to guide confused Americans through the deadly pandemic, but even he hasn't always got it right. Notably, during the first few weeks, he said Americans wouldn't need to wear masks, before flipping and branding them "essential". He also came out and blamed former president Donald Trump for the massive death toll the virus claimed.
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But behind the scenes, there wasn't a lot of indication about just how bad the situation was, until now. The emails show the extent of the confusion and chaos Fauci faced and how he struggled to combat the misinformation around Covid-19. It also shows just how big his role was, which he compared to his first year of residency. The mails were revealed after an FOIA request was filed by Buzzfeed News, leading to more than 3,200 pages of emails being published. Here are the biggest highlights.
Fauci 'chronically fatigued'
As a key player in America's response, Fauci constantly claimed he was exhausted, and suffered from a lack of sleep. On February 5, he received an email saying, "You surviving -- worried a bit about your workload." To that, Fauci replied, "Am hanging in there. Feels like my internship and first year residency when I was on every other night and every other weekend, but actually never left the hospital because the patients were so sick." In a June 2020 interview, he told Wolf Blitzer, "I'm chronically fatigued, I don't get a lot of sleep. I'm constantly briefing, talking, doing things, hopefully getting the right cause out."
But despite that, Fauci always remained available and willing to answer. A CNN review of his emails noted, "his exchanges — however short — always seemed pleasant." He also took time off to respond to complete strangers, as millions were left confused with chaotic advice coming from the Trump administration. In late February, he advised a doctor on next steps when the doctor emailed that he may have a patient with the coronavirus. "Do not hesitate to call or e-mail me," he concluded that exchange.
In late February, he even responded to a stranger's question on the safety of domestic travel. "I’m planning to fly domestically TOMORROW. Is it safe?" she asks. To that, Fauci replies it is. Since Fauci's email isn't publicly listed anywhere, it is surprising that so many strangers were able to reach out, but he never once hesitated to respond and help where he could.
Fairchild, Zuckerberg and social media
The emails also show that early on, social media would become a key factor in the battle, which Fauci recognized. In March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reached out and said, "We are building a Coronavirus Information Hub", and that he wanted Fauci to record a video for the hub. Fauci replied to colleagues that he would be interested in doing so and that he also wanted to rope in the White House. Actress Morgan Fairchild also emailed Fauci in February, offering to use her Twitter account to spread vital information.
"It would be great", Fauci replied to Fairchild's mail and said that Americans "should be prepared to mitigate an outbreak by measures that include social distancing, teleworking, temporary closure of schools etc." That was on February 27, well before an outbreak was declared in the US and the nation went into lockdown.
Buzzfeed noted that some of the emails were reviewed by the Trump administration prior to being published, which has led to several redactions. The nature of the relationship between the administration and Fauci has cleverly been hidden, despite some very public statements by Trump. None of the emails reveal if Fauci was ever angry or frustrated with Trump's lies, denials and false statements, but we do get some insight.
Fauci 'screaming' to be taken seriously
In a March email to a Florida infectious disease specialist, Fauci made his disdain for the lack of seriousness apparent. "I have been screaming on TV 2 to 5 times per night to tell the younger generation to start taking this seriously," he wrote. Fauci added, "I am very surprised that Gov. DeSantis has not completely closed the bars." He later replied to a Chinese official, "All is well despite some crazy people in this world."
Fauci did deny that he had been "muzzled" by the administration, in a February email. "I have never been muzzled or told that I could not speak out publicly about anything during this administration," he wrote. On March 1, he told another person, "I can assure you that I am not being censored". The emails don't reveal anything else, while in front of the cameras, the drama played on. Trump threatened to fire Fauci, but that never came to pass.
The emails reveal the huge deluge of offers, requests, guidance and questions Fauci and his team were subjected to at the start of the pandemic. Without a proper structure in place, Fauci became the de-facto person people turned to, leading to thousands of emails. More are expected to be published in the following days and could reveal more about how Fauci fought back against Trump's lies.
But from the emails released so far, there are hints that confusion and chaos prevailed in the government, which Twitter was clearly furious at. Within minutes, #FauciEmails started trending on Twitter, as many users slammed the disease expert for his approach early on while others came out to defend him.
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"The #FauciEmails reveal incompetence at every level of the scientific community. These people are legitimate idiots and completely f----ups," one person wrote. Another tweeted, "Fauci leaks like a Wuhan lab". One said, "Historians will be so confused by the media’s lionization of Fauci. Once politics of the moment are removed from the equation, Fauci will be seen as having been consistently wrong, disingenuous, self-aggrandizing—and possibly much, much worse (gain of function, etc.)"
The #FauciEmails reveal incompetence at every level of the scientific community. These people are legitimate idiots and completely fuck-ups.— Internet Dad Mike Cernovich (@Cernovich) June 2, 2021
Fauci leaks like a Wuhan lab. #FauciEmails pic.twitter.com/Azx2coykG2— Ryan Petty (@rpetty) June 2, 2021
Historians will be so confused by the media’s lionization of Fauci. Once politics of the moment are removed from the equation, Fauci will be seen as having been consistently wrong, disingenuous, self-aggrandizing—and possibly much, much worse (gain of function, etc.) #FauciEmails— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) June 2, 2021
Another user claimed, "The #Fauciemails remove any doubt that Fauci was part of a cover-up. We know who we was covering for. The only question that remains is what did he get in exchange?"
The #Fauciemails remove any doubt that Fauci was part of a cover-up. We know who we was covering for. The only question that remains is what did he get in exchange?— Morning Answer (@MorningAnswer) June 2, 2021
Fauci also had some defenders. One person tweeted, "Donald Trump: “This thing is deadly, I lied to downplay it.. “ No one blinked an eye.. But Fauci/CDC reversing course and ultimately getting us back to pre-lockdown infection rates by June/2021 is the scandal?" Another noted, "Some ppl accusing Fauci of a coverup are the same who also accused physicians of a coverup, resisted masks, said the CDC lied about death statistics, and are refusing the vaccine. So...are you all now agreeing the pandemic is real?"
Donald Trump: “This thing is deadly, I lied to downplay it.. “— Truth Serum (@TruthSe29254710) June 2, 2021
No one blinked an eye..
But Fauci/CDC reversing course and ultimately getting us back to pre-lockdown infection rates by June/2021 is the scandal? #FauciEmails #FauciLeaks
Some ppl accusing Fauci of a coverup are the same who also accused physicians of a coverup, resisted masks, said the CDC lied about death statistics, and are refusing the vaccine.— Alok WEAR A MASK! Patel (@AlokPatelMD) June 2, 2021
So...are you all now agreeing the pandemic is real?#Fauciemails pic.twitter.com/tiQmwA5PR8
The Washington Post also released 866 pages of emails from Fauci, showing amongst other things that the virus was an "engineered bioweapon" and that hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir could be used for treatment. Not all these emails were sent by Fauci, many are those that he received and ignored. He has, however, responded to some, leading to the internet reactions above.