Dr. Fauci's Amnesia
Decades ago, he drove a paradigm shift in pandemic response that focused on controlling the entire human population; his later advocacy of lockdowns and vaccine mandates implemented this vision.
What follows is my farewell homage to Anthony Fauci, on the occasion of his retirement, published yesterday in Compact magazine. Compact, founded by my friends Sohrab Ahmahri and Matthew Schmitz, is among the best journals out there—thoughtful, in-depth articles on the crucial issues of our time. Independent journalism is more important now than ever, so take a look at Compact and consider subscribing to it here.
Last week, The New York Times published a guest essay in praise of Dr. Anthony Fauci, written by Dr. Anthony Fauci. In this auto-hagiography, Fauci, who until recently served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NAIAD, and as President Biden’s chief medical adviser, attempted to rewrite recent history.
“I never aspired to a major administrative position and relished my identity as a hands-on physician and clinical researcher,” wrote the man who at the height of the pandemic found time to pose for an InStyle fashion shoot. Fauci added: “I always speak the unvarnished truth to presidents and other senior government officials, even when such truths may be uncomfortable or politically inconvenient, because extraordinary things can happen when science and politics work hand in hand.” Just so: Extraordinary things certainly have happened under his watch when science and politics fused.
It was a remarkable piece of mainstream-media-powered mendacity—and a reminder of Fauci’s mastery of the ways of contemporary power. It’s that savvy that has allowed Fauci to maintain his unprecedented position of power and influence for almost four decades at the NIAID division of the National Institutes of Health, notwithstanding his failures and dangerous power-grabs during the AIDS epidemic and the Covid pandemic. And it’s what impelled me to join a lawsuit against him in Missouri v. Biden, charging that Fauci and other senior officials in the administration violated the First Amendment’s free-speech protections by colluding with social-media companies to censor information that questioned the government’s favored Covid policies.
When the pandemic arrived, we saw a concerted effort to anoint Fauci the public face of the nation’s health authorities. Many Americans, especially our media and tech gatekeepers, hoped that Fauci, the steady man of science, could play foil to the erratic President Donald Trump in those harried news conferences of early 2020. The nation—indeed, the world—looked to this man to keep his hand on the rudder and guide us calmly through the pandemic storm.
Fauci was ready for his moment in the sun. A consummate DC insider, he had cultivated a power base in Washington and the media for decades. He served in several administrations, under both parties, and craftily used the AIDS epidemic to increase funding for NIAID and gain enormous control over biomedical research in the United States. He also cultivated media allies, who were eager for access to Fauci’s insider scoop when the pandemic broke.
Fauci’s influence on the recent US pandemic response extends back decades. In 1989, Fauci organized a conference in Washington to introduce a novel concept: a biosecurity threat. People had worried about biological weapons prior to 1989, of course, but Fauci’s conference introduced a consequential reframing: The potential threat was no longer a novel pathogen, such as a virus or bacteria, whether of natural origin or developed as a bioweapon. Rather, the new paradigm focused instead on humanity as a microbial population vector. The challenge, in other words, was that people functioned as a conveyance apparatus for viruses or bacteria.
Grasping this point goes a long way toward helping us understand our disastrous Covid response. In Fauci’s frame, the human population itself becomes a dangerous problem to be solved by experts—by a new caste of technocrats who must be granted unprecedented powers to control their fellow human beings. This biosecurity model became America’s infectious-disease-response policy following the Anthrax attacks shortly after 9/11. That’s when we began to hear the language of pandemic “countermeasures”—which isn’t a medical term, but the jargon of spycraft and soldiering.
As Ashley Rindsberg has documented, contrary to popular opinion, far from being a public health expert, since 2003 Fauci has sat atop America’s bio-defense infrastructure—wielding the enormous post-9/11 powers and budget this brought to his previously obscure NAIAD, one of 27 divisions at the NIH.
In Fauci’s reconfigured agency, with no oversight structure above him, the distinction between biodefense and scientific research collapsed. As Rindsberg explains: “Biodefense projects that formerly would have fallen under the authority of military or intelligence agencies were now under his direct supervision.” This also explains why Fauci is the highest paid federal employee, earning more than the US president, our four-star generals, senators, and Supreme Court justices, and why he makes roughly double the salary of his nominal superior, the NIH director—a fact that indicates who really holds sway over biomedical research funding in the United States.
It took more than 20 years, but the biosecurity approach became the default strategy during the Covid pandemic. Over the last three years, the biomedical-security paradigm has been rolled out on a global scale, shaping what I dubbed our New Abnormal. Recall how the phrase “the new normal” emerged almost immediately in the initial weeks of the pandemic, and how many ordinary social norms and expectations were rebranded as dangerous. In the first month of Covid, Fauci even suggested that perhaps we would never again go back to shaking hands.
Authoritarian lockdowns, school closures, vaccine and mask mandates, vaccine passports, and other assorted biosecurity measures proved ineffective at stopping the spread of the virus, and thus failed to achieve their intended goals. Instead, these previously untested policies inflicted enormous collateral damage. The full measure of these harms—the medical, psychological, and spiritual carnage—will take decades to unpack, though there is already plenty of available evidence to sift through.
The Missouri v. Biden case, in which I’m one of the plaintiffs, is a First Amendment free-speech lawsuit alleging that government officials across at least 17 different federal agencies leaned on social-media companies to suppress free speech, especially when it involves the government’s pandemic response. During his recent deposition in our case, Fauci confirmed what many suspected regarding the origins of lockdowns—namely, that the decision to lock down wasn’t based on empirical data, but on the word of the Chinese authorities as conveyed by Fauci’s deputy at NIAID, Clifford Lane. Indeed, in February 2020 there was no empirical data for this previously untested intervention, only flawed and now-disproved predictive computer models, like that of the Imperial College London, which were off by several orders of magnitude.
Tocqueville warned that democracy contains built-in vulnerabilities that can lead democratic nations into despotism. In our case, that vulnerability had a name and a representative figure: Anthony Fauci, an official who looked to a totalitarian state as the exemplar for managing a pandemic. The first state-ordered lockdown occurred in Wuhan and nearby Chinese cities. In mid-February 2020, the World Health Organization sent a delegation to China to investigate Covid. As the US delegate, Fauci dispatched Lane, his deputy.
Immediately upon returning, Lane convinced Fauci the United States should emulate China’s response. Given his adoption of the biosecurity model more than 20 years earlier, Fauci probably didn’t take much convincing. Chinese authorities told the WHO delegation that they had contained the virus through draconian lockdowns—a claim now clearly demonstrated to have been false. Had lockdowns worked in China as advertised in February 2020, we wouldn’t be seeing today record numbers of cases in China, notwithstanding the Communist Party’s increasingly terrifying and dystopian measures.
Given China’s historical pattern of falsified information, Lane and Fauci should have approached this intel with skepticism. After all, lockdowns were wholly untested and unprecedented. But as one of our lawyers in the case, Jenin Younes of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, put it, Fauci “was apparently willing to base his lockdown advocacy on the observations of a single guy relying on reports from a dictator.” Not exactly a double-blind randomized trial level of evidence for a man who identifies himself with The Science.
Days after Lane returned, the WHO published its report praising China’s strategy. Uncritically echoing Chinese propaganda, the report claimed: “China’s uncompromising and rigorous use of non-pharmaceutical measures to contain transmission of the COVID-19 virus in multiple settings provides vital lessons for the global response. This rather unique and unprecedented public health response in China reversed the escalating cases.”
Lockdowns were first imposed in the West in Italy, then adopted at the recommendation of Fauci and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx in the United States. Within weeks, the whole world was locked down. From the outset, the evidential basis for this global policy catastrophe was paper-thin. Fauci knew this—or at least, he should have. But what China had done was aligned with his own reframing of public health as management of biosecurity threats through the control of entire populations. Indeed, to this day, he is prepared to support the ongoing Chinese lockdowns if they function as a useful fulcrum to coerce compliance with other public-health mandates.
After bringing China’s unprecedented authoritarian measures to the United States, Fauci next resolved that the entire population must be vaccinated. To this end, the psychological strain of prolonged lockdowns and school closures offered useful leverage: If you wanted to avoid further forced isolation, it was up to you to get the jabs. Pressing this logic to its logical conclusion, as recently as last month Fauci told CNN that the continued lockdowns in China could be justified, at least for a period of time, if the goal was to force vaccine compliance: “If the purpose is, ‘Let’s get all the people vaccinated, particularly the elderly,’ then OK.”
Fauci’s promotion of mass vaccination was ideologically of a piece with his support for lockdowns. Rather than targeting the response at those most vulnerable to the virus, both policies sought a one-size-fits-all approach to control the behavior of the entire population. However, he likely had other reasons for aggressively pushing the vaccines. Most people are still unaware that NIAID, Fauci’s division of the NIH, co-owns the patent on the Moderna vaccine, among thousands of other pharma patents.
Rather than providing grants to university-based investigators to run the clinical trials on their own Moderna vaccine, the NIH conducted this research internally, a clear conflict of interest. NIAID will earn millions from this vaccine’s revenue, with several NIH employees (and their heirs) personally receiving up to $150,000 annually from Moderna vaccine sales. Indeed, the NIH went to bat in a lawsuit with the company to fight for its share of the patent. Big money is at stake: The Government Accountability Office estimated recently that the NIH has earned $2 billion in royalties since 1991 from its patents for FDA-approved drugs.
In May 2022, documents obtained by a FOIA request from Open the Books, a nonprofit organization dedicated to investigating and disclosing government expenditures, revealed that NIH director Francis Collins, Fauci, and Lane all received royalties from pharmaceutical companies between 2009 and 2014. Open the Books estimates that from 2010 to 2020, third parties paid more than $350 million in royalties to NIH and its scientists, who are credited as co-inventors. In the years they received payments, Collins, Fauci, and Lane were administrators, not researchers, at the NIH, with no plausible claim to serving as scientific co-discoverers. The exact amount they earned from royalties was redacted from the released documents.
Many people have asked me why more scientists failed to challenge our misguided Covid policies, which were often presented to the public without even the pretense of scientific rigor. The answer is that the vast majority of biomedical research in the United States is underwritten by the NIH, with funding controlled by a small group of NIH insiders like Fauci—many of whom stay in power for decades.
NIH sinecures allow the likes of Fauci to wield a vast power over primary investigators and their teams of university researchers, permitting one man to shape the entire research agenda of the field for a generation or more. University researchers and their institutions were thus easily controlled by the threat of losing grant money should they challenge Fauci’s preferred policies. For this reason alone, he should never have opined on public-health policies, a clear conflict of interest. His job as NAIAD director was always to fund research, never to make or advise on public-health measures. Efforts to enthrone him as America’s personal public-health czar were thus misconceived from the outset.
During his deposition in November, Fauci appeared to be suffering from a novel syndrome—perhaps a form of long Covid or a side-effect of multiple boosters—characterized by sudden-onset amnesia about much of what he had done during the pandemic. For example, he couldn’t cite a single study that influenced him changing his mind about masking. He was sure that there were many such studies, naturally, but the specifics were lost in the fog.
Recall that early in the pandemic, Fauci had repeatedly told the public not to wear masks. For example, he wrote in a Feb. 5, 2020, email that “the typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material.” He later admitted in an interview with Mark Zuckerberg that this was a “noble lie” to save masks, which were in short supply, for front-line health workers. Two months after advising against masks, he changed his mind, promoting them for symptomatic and asymptomatic people alike on PBS News Hour and elsewhere in the media.
During the deposition, he demonstrated how thoroughly the mystery studies—none of which he could remember—had convinced him in favor of masks. According to the report of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, when the court reporter sneezed, Fauci nearly jumped out of his seat. Nobody in the room was masked, including Fauci. The court reporter explained it was merely her allergies, but Fauci would have none of it. As another person who was in the room reported, Fauci “asked her to put on a mask and said that he was uncomfortable, ‘and the last thing in the world I want right now is to get Covid.’ So she had to wear a mask the whole rest of the time.”
While all this was unfolding in the deposition room, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry kept a copy of Robert Kennedy Jr.’s book The Real Anthony Fauci on the table in front of him, and occasionally flipped through it as he questioned Dr. Fauci. The book, which has sold more than 1 million copies, documents in excruciating detail the corruption of the public-health system under Fauci’s 38-year reign as director of NIAID, beginning with his disastrous tenure during the AIDS epidemic. No mainstream outlet has reviewed the book, even to attempt to discredit its claims. Fauci continues to have the legacy media eating from the palm of his hand, as this week’s self-serving essay in the New York Times attests.
Also during the deposition, Fauci showed foggy recall on his role in our case’s central allegation: He claimed he couldn’t remember many details about his involvement in the government’s social-media censorship campaigns, which have been described in detail in our legal filings and other recent investigative reports. By his own description, Fauci was too busy developing a vaccine that saved millions of lives to care about petty matters like what happens on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.
The amnestic tedium continued for seven hours. Fauci repeated the phrase “I don’t recall” 178 times during the deposition. Two of the other co-plaintiffs, my friends Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, were co-authors with Sunetra Gupta of the Great Barrington Declaration. Fauci couldn’t remember much about that signal document, either, which argued for focused protection instead of the one-size-fits-all lockdowns and school closures, and garnered 930,000 signatures from physicians, public-health experts, and other concerned health professionals and citizens in 2020.
But Fauci had little time to pay attention to such trivial matters, as he explained: “I have a very busy day job running a $6 billion institute. I don’t have time to worry about things like the Great Barrington Declaration.” However, records show that he did indeed spend considerable time worrying about it in 2020. On Oct. 8, 2020, NIH Director Francis Collins emailed Fauci asking him to coordinate a “quick and devastating takedown” to discredit the authors of the declaration (distinguished epidemiologists from Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford). Fauci replied to and acted upon Collins’s note right away. He later emailed Birx on Oct. 16, 2020, saying that he had “come out very strongly against the Great Barrington Declaration.” But last month in his deposition, his recall for these signal events of 2020 apparently failed him.
Fauci’s memory, then, appears to have declined over the past two trying years. If his faculties are indeed beginning to fade, then perhaps his recent retirement was well-timed. He had quite a run, and as he put it recently in an interview, he gave it his all and left everything on the field. He played his game right up to the final buzzer.
Farewell, Dr. Fauci.