Jun 1, 2021 - Health

866 pages of Fauci emails shed light on early days of COVID crisis

Trump and Fauci

Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Washington Post obtained 866 pages of Anthony Fauci's emails from March and April 2020 via the Freedom of Information Act, revealing what it was like for the government's top infectious-disease expert to navigate the chaotic early weeks of the pandemic under the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Fauci has been one of the most prominent public faces of the U.S. government's coronavirus response, opening him up to both widespread admiration and criticism. U.S. officials were eventually forced to assign Fauci a full-time security detail.

The big picture: Fauci told the Post that he would receive approximately 1,000 emails a day from colleagues, politicians, medical workers, foreign governments and strangers.

  • "I was getting every single kind of question, mostly people who were a little bit confused about the mixed messages that were coming out of the White House and wanted to know what’s the real scoop," Fauci said.

George Gao, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, emailed Fauci on March 28, shortly after Science magazine quoted Gao saying that the U.S. was making a "big mistake" by not recommending that people wear masks.

  • "I saw the Science interview, how could I say such a word ‘big mistake’ about others? That was journalist’s wording. Hope you understand ... Let's work together to get the virus out of the earth," Gao said.
  • "Thanks for the note, I understand completely. No problem. We will get through this together," Fauci responded.

In another email on April 8, Gao expressed concern about Fauci's well-being: "I saw some news (hope it is fake) that [you] are being attacked by some people. Hope you are well under such [an] irrational situation."

  • "Thank you for your kind note. All is well despite some crazy people in this world," Fauci emailed back.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) emailed Fauci explaining why some of his Republican colleagues were trying to block money for the U.S. pandemic response. He then told Fauci to "keep being a science truth teller," at a time when Republican lawmakers and former President Trump were skeptical about the threat of the coronavirus.

  • "Thanks, Fred. I appreciate your note," Fauci responded a few hours later.

An antiterrorism and insider threat officer in the Office of the Surgeon General in the Army, whose name was redacted, asked Fauci a series of clarifying questions on the virus on April 14, and called the infectious disease expert "the voice of reason for millions of concerned citizens."

  • The officer also asked Fauci a personal question: "[W]hat keeps you up at night, regarding COVID-19?"
  • "I have said in the past that what keeps me up at night is the possibility of a pandemic respiratory infection. We are in that now, and what keeps me up at night is the response, a major part of which is the development of an effective vaccine and treatments for COVID-19," Fauci wrote back.

When he was informed a White House press briefing was canceled on April 21, Fauci responded: "Yikes………. That would make 4 days in a row without a Press Conference for me" — before adding a pair of smiling emojis.

  • Fauci frequently clashed with former President Trump, whose misinformation he was forced to publicly contradict. Fauci was eventually sidelined and rarely spoke to Trump toward the end of the administration.

Fauci was amazed by the public fascination with his persona. He received a Google News alert for his name, with one article titled "'Cuomo Crush' and 'Fauci Fever' — Sexualization of These Men Is a Real Thing on the Internet." He then forwarded that email to someone, telling them to click on that article: "It will blow your mind. Our society is totally nuts."

  • A colleague emailed him an article with the headline, "Fauci socks, Fauci doughnuts, Fauci fan art: The coronavirus expert attracts a cult following."
  • Fauci replied to that email: "Truly surrealistic. Hopefully, this all stops soon."

Go deeper: Read more emails published by the Post

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