Choose your reality:
1) Reality 1: Newly released emails from the early days of the pandemic paint Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as battling, often to the point of utter exhaustion, on the front lines of a virus that even he struggles to grasp the enormity of.
2) Reality 2: Newly released emails from the early days of the pandemic reveal that Fauci was – and is – a deeply partisan bureaucrat who worked behind the scenes to dismiss concerns about the possibility that Covid-19 had emerged after a lab leak in Wuhan, China – among other things.
Allies of former President Donald Trump – from Fox News’ wall-to-wall coverage of the emails to Sen. Rand Paul’s “told you” tweet earlier this week – are very much adherents of Reality 2.
Of course, a little thing called “facts” back up Reality 1 – also known as just plain reality for the majority of Americans.
Paul and others are hanging a whole lot on a single email from an executive at EcoHealth Alliance, a global nonprofit that helped fund some research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, thanking him for saying publicly that the scientific evidence suggested the virus had occurred naturally rather than from a lab leak.
Which is what the science said at the time. And as Fauci explained on CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday:
“You can misconstrue it however you want – that email was from a person to me saying ‘thank you’ for whatever it is he thought I said, and I said that I think the most likely origin is a jumping of species. I still do think it is, at the same time as I’m keeping an open mind that it might be a lab leak.”
(President Joe Biden re-ignited the issue of the lab-leak theory in late May when he tasked the intelligence community to report back to him within 90 days on whether or not the virus occurred naturally or was the result of a lab leak.)
What the emails released this week re-prove is this: Fauci has become Republicans’ new favorite boogeyman.
It’s Fauci – not Biden – whom Trump-loving Republicans seem fixated on as they look for a foothold in a national political landscape where they control neither the White House or Congress.
“After seeing the emails, our Country is fortunate I didn’t do what Dr. Fauci wanted me to do,” said Trump in a statement released Thursday. “Dr. Fauci also didn’t put an emphasis on speed of vaccine production because he thought it would take 3, 4, or maybe even 5 years to create. I got it done in less than 9 months with Operation Warp Speed.”
Later, in a second statement, Trump added this: “The correspondence between Dr. Fauci and China speaks too loudly for anyone to ignore. China should pay Ten Trillion Dollars to America, and the World, for the death and destruction they have caused!”
For Trump – and Paul – this is simply a continuation of their regular drumbeat of attacks on Fauci over the past year or so. Trump and his followers – in Congress and out – have long insisted that Fauci is a secret Democrat who got it wrong at every turn of the pandemic. (Fauci, it’s worth noting, has served in his role for Republican and Democratic presidents.)
One other example: In early April, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted a video of her CrossFit workout routine accompanied by these words: “This is my Covid protection #MakeAmericaHealthyAgain. It’s time to #FireFauci.”
The year-long negative campaign against Fauci, who has largely avoided any sort of response or retaliation, has had a profound effect on how he is viewed by Republicans.
In a Fox News poll conducted late last month, just 1 in 3 Republicans approved of how Fauci has handled the virus while 64% disapproved. Compare that to the 6 in 10 registered voters who, in that same poll, said they approved of Fauci’s work on Covid-19 and you see the massive disconnect between Republican voters and the general electorate.
Fauci’s unpopularity among Republicans means that the likes of Trump, Paul and Greene will keep attacking him as a way to virtue signal to their base – and raise money!
That a doctor who has spent his entire life working for presidents of both parties has become a despised figure among Republican leaders and voters speaks to just how far the GOP has gone off the rails.
CNN’s Moira Donahue contributed to this report.