Dr. Anthony Fauci‘s emails reveal the contrast between his public and private sentiments, showing what the top infectious disease expert said behind the scenes.
The trove of emails obtained through public records requests and published on Tuesday by Buzzfeed and the Washington Post offers a rare glimpse behind the curtain as Fauci responded to the pandemic last year.
Origins of COVID-19: Fauci was warned privately of lab leak possibility but dismissed it in public
Fauci’s emails do not reveal his personal take on the theory that coronavirus escaped from a lab in China, but show that multiple experts warned him of the possibility.
He received emails about this issue in January 2020, on February 21, 2020 and April 16, 2020
On April 18, 2020, Fauci received an email from the head of a research group which partners with the Wuhan Institute of Virology thanking him for publicly insisting that the evidence did not point to the lab as the source.
Last month – after mounting evidence supporting the lab leak theory – Fauci hedged, saying the origin is likely a natural occurrence, where it goes from an animal reservoir to a human.
In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Fauci said that he is ‘keeping an open mind that it might be a lab leak’ but dismissed the idea of bioengineering as ‘far out’.
Working with China: Fauci was courteous to Chinese counterparts in private but critical in public
Fauci exchanged several emails in March and April of 2020 with George Gao, the head of the Chinese CDC.
Fauci did not ask Gao any questions about the origins of the virus.
In one exchange, Gao apologized for an article quoting him as saying that Fauci’s then stance against public mask wearing was a ‘big mistake’.
‘I understand completely. No problem. We will get through this together,’ Fauci replied.
Less than a week later, Gao emailed Fauci again expressing his support amid the onslaught of attacks, saying ‘Hope you are well under such a irrational situation.’
‘Thank you for your kind note. All is well despite some crazy people in this world,’ Fauci replied three days later.
In public, Fauci was polite but critical of China for failing to disclose key information early in the pandemic.
White House censorship: Fauci denied being ‘muzzled’ and said he always said what he wanted based on scientific evidence
On March 1, 2020, Fauci responded to an email from a member of the public who expressed concern that he was being ‘muzzled’ by the Trump administration and offering to make an outcry.
‘Please stay silent since I have not been muzzled,’ Fauci responded. ‘I will be on multiple TV shows tomorrow and was on FOX this AM. No one is censoring me.’
Publicly, Fauci also denied being ‘muzzled’ early in the pandemic, but once Trump left office suggested that he had been ‘blocked’ from certain appearances.
On January 23, 2021, just three days into President Joe Biden’s term, Fauci appeared on Rachel Madow’s MSNBC show, an interview he implied Trump’s administration had denied.
Hydroxychloroquine: Fauci expressed doubts in private and in public
Early on, Fauci expressed doubts about the immunosuppressive drug hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19.
A small French study, which was not randomized for proper control, suggested that the cheap drug could help patients with severe COVID, and Donald Trump seized on the possibility to Fauci’s dismay.
He said there’s no data supporting this claim in emails on February 22, 2020, April 22, 2020 and May 1, 2020.
In public, Fauci was also dismissive, dismissing the French study at a March 20, 2020 press conference as Trump looked on.
Masks: Fauci flip-flopped in private emails and in public
Fauci’s evolving views on masks were just as evident in his private emails as they were in his public statements.
On February 5, 2020, Fauci said masks are ‘really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection’
Two days later, he delivered the same advice on CNN, saying ‘A lot of people are wearing masks that don’t need them.’
By late March, Fauci was changing his tune in public and private.
‘There are some data from NIH that indicate that mere speaking without coughing elicits aerosols that travel a foot or two. If that is the case, then perhaps universal wearing of masks in the most practical way to go,’ he wrote in an email on March 31, 2020.
He explained his reasoning in an interview with NBC one day earlier, saying asymptomatic individuals can transit the infection.