Apr 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Fauci's prescription for politicians: Illegitimi non carborundum

In 2014, Anthony Fauci hugs Nina Pham, a nurse who was infected with Ebola by treating a patient. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has maintained his position through six administrations by emphasizing facts and candor in his conversations with politicians, the New Yorker's Michael Specter reports.

Why it matters: "Americans have come to rely on Fauci’s authoritative presence," Specter writes. "Perhaps not since the Vietnam era, when Walter Cronkite, the avuncular anchor of the 'CBS Evening News,' was routinely described as the most trusted man in America, has the country depended so completely on one person to deliver a daily dose of plain talk."

Details: Specter, who has known Fauci since the HIV/AIDS epidemic exploded in the mid-'80s, writes that Fauci told him the following in 2016:

“You stay completely apolitical and non-ideological, and you stick to what it is that you do. I’m a scientist and I’m a physician. And that’s it.”
“Some wise person who used to be in the White House, in the Nixon Administration, told me a very interesting dictum to live by. He said, ‘When you go into the White House, you should be prepared that that is the last time you will ever go in. Because if you go in saying, I’m going to tell somebody something they want to hear, then you’ve shot yourself in the foot.’ Now everybody knows I’m going to tell them exactly what’s the truth.”

The bottom line: When dealing with politicians, Fauci told Specter that he relies on the familiar pseudo-Latin expression Illegitimi non carborundum, or: "Don’t let the bastards grind you down."

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