Now, thousands of Fauci’s emails have been released, offering a glimpse into how the nation’s leading infectious diseases specialist dealt with the crisis.
As the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci became a prominent face of the nation’s response to the pandemic, appearing at White House COVID-19 briefings and doing a slew of interviews.
Here’s some of what we learned from Fauci’s correspondence:
Were Fauci’s emails leaked?
No. The trove of emails was obtained by the Washington Post and BuzzFeed News through the Freedom of Information Act, which allows journalists to request internal government correspondence.
BuzzFeed posted its entire batch of more than 3,200 pages for the public to peruse. The Washington Post received more than 800 pages and published a story about them Monday.
Was Fauci silenced by President Donald Trump?
According to his emails, Fauci had little patience for claims that his statements in the early days of the pandemic were being restricted by the Trump administration.
In a March 2020 email, Fauci denied being silenced by Trump, writing: “Please stay silent since I have not been muzzled. I will be on multiple TV shows tomorrow and was on FOX this AM. No one is censoring me.”
“I am not being muzzled or censored,” he wrote in another email that same month.
Was Fauci fired over the emails?
No. But several GOP lawmakers have called for Fauci to be fired.
Republicans lashed out at Fauci after the email dump, focusing their ire on the fact that he received warnings that the virus may have been “engineered.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has clashed with Fauci on a number of pandemic-related issues this year, tweeted the hashtag #FireFauci on Wednesday. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) also wrote that Fauci “needs to be fired.”
However, White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday called Fauci “an undeniable asset” and said President Biden has full confidence in his health adviser.
What was Fauci told about the origins of COVID-19?
The emails show that Fauci was warned early in the outbreak that the coronavirus had possibly been “engineered.” Still, he and other experts dismissed the controversial claim at the time.
In January 2020, he received an email from a top US virus researcher, who wrote that “unusual features” of the virus may indicate it was “engineered.” Fauci replied that he would respond by phone.
Then, in April, the director of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, sent Fauci an email with the subject line “conspiracy gains momentum” with a link to a Mediaite report about a discussion on Fox News’ “Hannity” program. Both the rest of the contents of the email and Fauci’s answer were redacted.
The theory gained traction last month after the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers at a lab in Wuhan, China, became so ill in November 2019 that they sought hospital treatment.
Last month, Fauci — who initially backed the idea that the coronavirus originated naturally — said he was now “not convinced” and expressed support support for an investigation.
Has Fauci addressed the controversy?
On Wednesday, Fauci blamed criticism of his shifting position on “people out there who, for one reason or another, resent me for what I did in the last administration, which was not anything that was anti-Trump at all.”
“It was just trying to get the right information, to try and get the right data. What they didn’t seem to understand, I guess that it is understandable that they didn’t understand it, is that science is a dynamic process,” he told MSNBC.
But on Thursday, Fauci repeatedly defended China, telling CNN that it’s “quite far-fetched that the Chinese deliberately engineered something so that they could kill themselves, as well as other people.”
“I think that’s a bit far out,” he added.
Fauci also told MSNBC that Americans shouldn’t “be accusatory” or be “pointing fingers” at the Chinese Communist Party.
“It’s obviously in China’s interests to find out exactly what it is. And the ‘is’ of the natural theory would be to find that link. So you have to keep looking for it,” he said.
Did Fauci lie about masks?
No. Some critics have seized upon Fauci, 80, changing his advice on mask-wearing to protect against the virus as proof that he wasn’t honest with the public.
In a February 2020 email, Fauci told a former Health and Human Services official: “Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection.”
He stuck to that advice until the CDC updated its guidance on the use of face coverings in April, saying they should be worn “in public settings when around people outside their household, especially when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
But Fauci, now White House chief medical adviser, has previously explained his apparent flip-flopping on the issue, saying that at the time, he and others believed people would buy up masks and deprive medical professionals of the much-needed supplies.