Dr. Anthony Fauci Is Talking To Just About Anyone About The Coronavirus

Apr 1, 2020
Originally published on April 1, 2020 5:17 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Dr. Anthony Fauci is one of the president's top advisers on how to tackle the coronavirus spread, so it's hard to imagine he has many free moments in his day. Yet he is spending a lot of time giving interviews.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

MARK ZUCKERBERG: I am here today with Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the...

DAN KATZ: He is the man in charge when it comes to information about coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Dr. Fauci, thank you for taking the time to join us this morning.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Good to be with you.

CHANG: NPR's David Folkenflik analyzes what's behind Fauci's media blitz.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Dr. Anthony Fauci has become the lead voice on the response of the public health establishment to the pandemic. That's to the great comfort of much of the nation seeking clarity and to the occasional discomfort of President Trump. Here's Fauci Monday with CNN's John Berman, saying he believed the president's stated desire to open the nation up for business by Easter had been wrong.

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FAUCI: And that's the reason why we argued strongly with the president that he not withdraw those guidelines after 15 days but that he extend them, and he did listen.

FOLKENFLIK: No president likes to be contradicted publicly, especially not this one. That's complicated for Fauci, who's been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since Ronald Reagan's first term in office. The president, a month ago, urged Americans to think about coronavirus like a typical flu, a view not shared by medical authorities.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's going to be very well under control. Now, it may get bigger. It may get a little bigger. It may not get bigger at all.

FOLKENFLIK: Trump's statements have been jumbled, contradictory, confusing and misleading. And Fauci sort of kind of echoed the president but focused most on offering hope through giving clear-cut medical guidance. And he's done that on CBS, NPR, Telemundo, Science magazine, Barstool Sports, "Desus & Mero" on Showtime.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS AND MERO")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: So what do you say to the people who are kind of cavalier about this whole thing and they're just kind of like, oh, well, you know, I'm healthy; I can be outside; I'm going to go for a run with my friends or blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?

FOLKENFLIK: He turned up with Dr. Mike, an exuberant osteopath from New Jersey whose YouTube account has 5.4 million followers.

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FAUCI: Dr. Mike, how are you?

DR MIKE: How's it going?

FAUCI: Running around like a maniac here - but other than that, I'm good.

FOLKENFLIK: And the one that caught my eye - the podcast of NBA great Steph Curry in which Fauci clarified once more how coronavirus differs from the flu.

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FAUCI: The reason it's different is that it's very, very much more transmissible than flu. And more importantly, it's significantly more serious.

FOLKENFLIK: Admirers print T-shirts saying he should run for president and trade concerns about the rasp in Fauci's voice, suggesting the 79-year-old may himself be falling ill. Meanwhile, Fauci is taking heat from conspiratorial right-wingers online, saying he's part of an effort by government officials to discredit the president. At times, after contradicting Trump, Fauci has retreated from public view, as Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer observed during a virtual town hall with Trump.

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BILL HEMMER: Is everything cool with you and Dr. Fauci? He was not there...

TRUMP: Oh, absolutely.

HEMMER: He wasn't there last night for the briefing. He's not here today.

TRUMP: Because he has other things to do. No, we get along very well.

HEMMER: Your relationship's good?

TRUMP: I think it's been very good. You would have heard about it if it wasn't.

FOLKENFLIK: Fauci has taken to Fox News at least 15 times, trying to reach an audience that has been told by many of its stars to doubt the peril posed by the virus. Fox's Mark Levin recently praised Fauci after interviewing him, yet subsequently still tried to discredit concerns over the disease.

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MARK LEVIN: I cannot find anywhere the definition of what it means to die from this virus.

FOLKENFLIK: Sounds like the nation's leading infectious disease doctor may have a few more rounds to make.

David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.