In the early days of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci was seen by many as a reassuring voice of reason when the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic was deemed chaotic. Fauci’s stance on Covid response, contradictory to then-President Donald Trump, won him admirers to a point that various merchandise named after the respected scientist became a huge hit in the American market.
But the latest trove of emails obtained by The Washington Post as part of a Freedom of Information Act request shows that the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was not pleased by the growing public fascination with him. On March 31, one of Fauci’s colleagues sent him an article titled ‘Fauci socks, Fauci doughnuts, Fauci fan art: The coronavirus expert attracts a cult following.’
“Truly surrealistic. Hopefully, this all stops soon,” Fauci replied, as per the emails published by the Post. In another note, he said, “It is not at all pleasant, that is for sure.”
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A week later, Fauci received a Google News alert for his name, prompting the immunologist, who was then 79-years-old, to forward it to someone whose name and email address have been redacted in The Washington Post report. One of the articles was titled “‘Cuomo Crush’ and ‘Fauci Fever’ — Sexualization of These Men Is a Real Thing on the Internet“. Urging the person to click on the link, Fauci wrote, “It will blow your mind. Our society is really totally nuts.”
Fauci’s security detail was also expanded to full time after he started receiving death threats from Trump supporters and, as recounted by him in a New York Times interview, even received a letter in the mail with a powdered substance in it. George Gao, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote to Fauci saying, “I saw some news (hope it is fake) that [you] are being attacked by some people. Hope you are well under such a irrational situation.”
“Thank you for your kind note,” Fauci replied, as per the published correspondence. “All is well despite some crazy people in this world.”