Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing that despite his mistakes, Dr. Anthony Fauci still has a high degree of credibility. You can find a counterpoint here, where Roger Klein argues that Fauci’s inconsistencies on the pandemic have ruined his public credibility.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is not perfect. During a long medical career, he has, no doubt, made many mistakes. Name me someone who hasn’t.
These days, however, the 80-year-old Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has gone from being a national hero at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic to a whipping boy of partisan critics intent on proving he’s part of some Deep State conspiracy to hide the facts about COVID-19’s origins.
Fauci’s credibility is now being questioned because: (1) he changed his views about the efficacy of wearing face masks, (2) he initially dismissed the possibility that COVID-19 started as a laboratory leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and (3) he has been charged with giving false and misleading testimony to Congress on whether the National Institutes of Health funded “gain of function” research that created a lab-derived pathogen more transmissible and virulent than similar viruses occurring naturally in the animal world.
These are serious allegations, and they should be pursued transparently, professionally, objectively and thoroughly. COVID-19 has now killed over 625,000 Americans and 4.13 million people globally. We need answers as to how, when and where this global pandemic began. By all means, let’s pursue the facts – especially those being hidden by the Chinese Communist Party – and let those facts speak for themselves.
At the same time, it’s worth remembering that Dr. Anthony Fauci has been a remarkably dedicated public servant whose long medical career has seen his personal leadership in virtually every major epidemic over nearly 50 years: HIV/AIDS, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Swine Flu and now COVID-19.
Fauci has been praised and recognized by organizations and governments on several continents. He also helped shaped President George W. Bush’s successful PEPFAR initiative, the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief around the world. In 2008, President Bush presented Dr. Fauci with the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Fauci’s work has, quite literally, saved millions of lives around the globe.
Does it make sense that this remarkably talented and accomplished physician (who, by the way, finished first in his class at Cornell University Medical College) would suddenly start misleading the American people, the Congress, and two American presidents, Donald Trump and Joe Biden?
So let’s start with this basic question: whom would you trust more when it comes to receiving medical advice about COVID-19, Anthony Fauci or Donald Trump?
President Trump told us, initially, that the novel coronavirus was nothing to worry about: it was just a mild flu that would burn itself out by April 2020. Trump deserves considerable credit for pursuing Operation Warp Speed that, in a remarkably short time, brought us the vaccines that are saving lives every day, but his medical musings were repeatedly wrong. After all, Trump is fundamentally a salesman with no medical expertise whatsoever.
There are currently 17 physicians serving in the U.S. Congress: four Senators and 13 House members. To my knowledge, there are no experienced immunologists or epidemiologists among this group. While physicians like Sen. Rand Paul have every right to challenge Dr. Fauci’s medical advice and activities, we’re better off when our elected officials conduct their official duties and don’t offer medical advice to the American public.
Since COVID-19 emerged as a global pandemic, the mantra has been “follow the science.” While that cautious advice has been mostly sound, it’s also worth noting that, like the virus itself, the science has been evolving.
We have never before dealt with a global pandemic of this nature, and we will no doubt spend many years in the future debating after the fact the efficacy of face masks and whether lockdowns were justified. Surely, we will find instances where we could have done better or chosen different approaches.
Such debates, however, will never end, because counterfactuals are virtually impossible to prove. We will never know what the situation would have been like had there been no lockdowns or no face-mask requirements.
“Follow the science” means do the best we can based on hard, scientific evidence as it emerges, but that evidence is not foolproof, especially when we are faced with a rapidly mutating virus and some questions about the efficacy of vaccines given the spreading Delta variant.
It is inevitable that there will be conflicts between our scientific and our political communities. Dr. Anthony Fauci has been remarkably open with Americans and the world when it comes to beating COVID-19. He should still be trusted.
Charles Kolb served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy from 1990-1992 in the George H.W. Bush White House