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A Ron DeSantis quip inspired a month-long conspiracy that Dr. Fauci is in witness protection

Conspiracy theorists are convinced that Fauci is in hiding.


Claire Goforth


Posted on Mar 17, 2022   Updated on Apr 6, 2022, 1:38 pm CDT

A new conspiracy theory holds that Dr. Anthony Fauci is in witness protection. He’s not, but the belief persists

The conspiracy theory about Fauci going into witness protection has been around for a while. It was given new life by an off-the-cuff quip Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R.) made at a press conference on March 2. As Forbes noted at the time, DeSantis was merely highlighting Fauci’s diminished public profile as the COVID-19 pandemic potentially enters its twilight phase.

Fauci became one of the most recognizable figures during the pandemic. While many lauded his lengthy public service and calm, clinical demeanor, he swiftly became a villain to COVID deniers and conspiracy theorists. Many of those same critics also falsely believe that the pandemic was planned, faked, or grossly exaggerated to justify “medical tyranny.” Some flatly blame Fauci for the pandemic. Such beliefs partly fuel the ongoing trucker convoy protests.

DeSantis joking that Fauci is in witness protection fueled a new wave of vitriol for the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

YouTube videos of his remarks generated comments by people who apparently believe that DeSantis was being serious. One commenter wrote, “I didn’t realize that witness protection could work if you were a witness to your own crimes.” Two thousand people have liked the comment as of this writing.

Multiple people posted about Fauci’s purported absence in trucker convoy and QAnon channels on Telegram.

In Body Image

There are TikToks claiming Fauci’s in witness protection, Facebook posts about it by right-wing figures with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, blogs, tweets, and more.

Some of the claims are written in a semi-joking manner so as to let the reader decide what to believe.

Thousands have seen and interacted with these posts, many of whom seem to believe that Fauci has actually vanished from public life.

The conspiracy theory became so pervasive that PolitiFact debunked it. It noted that Facebook has flagged posts falsely claiming that Fauci’s in witness protection or otherwise missing as misinformation.

In reality, Fauci has been making public appearances the entire time. He’s been a White House press briefings, interviewed by multiple media outlets—including on camera—and at other public events.

Fauci is also the scheduled speaker for the University of Maryland Baltimore’s commencement ceremony in May, which would be pretty difficult to manage if he was living under a new identity in the witness protection program.

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*First Published: Mar 17, 2022, 11:07 am CDT