The coronavirus pandemic has put the nation’s leading immunology expert in the crosshairs of conspiracy theorists who support President Donald Trump.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become an unlikely hero of late. His calm demeanor and insistence on facts and science have been something of a balm on the national spirit in these precarious times.
And on Twitter this morning, people were demanding he be fired, as the hashtag #FireFauci trended.
Because where some see a respected professional at the top of his field, far-right conspiracy theorists see a deep state agent hellbent on destroying the president.
Dr. Fauci has become something of a scapegoat in such circles. QAnon followers are among the most fervently anti-Fauci.
In recent weeks, Dr. Fauci has been falsely accused of working with Bill Gates (some loonier conspiracy theorists believe Gates started the coronavirus), coordinating with CNN to make people afraid of it, and been labeled a "Deep State shill." Dr. Fauci touching his forehead and appearing to laugh when Trump referenced the "deep state department" at a recent news conference gave fuel to such beliefs.
Shiva Ayyadurai, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, is among those targeting Dr. Fauci. Ayyadurai's circulating a petition to fire him that claims he's compromised by ties to "Big Pharma" and wants to mandate vaccines.
To date, nearly 12,000 have signed it.
Sentiment against Dr. Fauci is rampant on pro-Trump Facebook groups, and they were reportedly the source of significant enough threats that Dr. Fauci recently received a security detail.
"President Trump KNOWS THE EVILNESS OF FAUCI," "commie fk," "fire him," are some of the comments on just one public group.
In their quest to find a villain for the pandemic, these conspiracy theorists are seizing on the thinnest shreds of "evidence" against Dr. Fauci.
On YouTube, a clip of Dr. Fauci talking about the threat of a pandemic in 2017 has more than 200,000 views and 1,500 comments, many by people who believe that coronavirus was created on purpose and that Dr. Fauci had something to do with it. They think the fact that the immunology expert spoke about the well-known threat of pandemic three years ago somehow proves this was a plot.
The far-right was whipped into an anti-Fauci frenzy by yesterday's reporting by Axios of a confrontation between him and economic advisor Peter Navarro over the efficacy of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. Dr. Fauci has resisted Trump's push to laud the drug's effectiveness at treating coronavirus, arguing that more and better data is needed.
#FireFauci trended on Twitter after news of confrontation broke.
Many tweets including the hashtag repeated wild, baseless accusations that Dr. Fauci worked with a host of characters—George Soros, the Clintons, Democrats, Gates, etc.—to cause the pandemic.
Others rallied behind Dr. Fauci, who they see as a rare voice of reason in the chaos of the Trump administration.
To date, there have been nearly 10,000 confirmed coronavirus fatalities in the U.S. More than 300,000 have been infected.
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