He is the US scientist who became the figurehead of attempts to combat the country’s coronavirus epidemic, described in some quarters as “America’s doctor”.
Now Anthony Fauci appears sidelined by Donald Trump’s White House after repeatedly contradicting the president’s view about the effectiveness of the government response.
In recent days the 79-year-old director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has come under increasing fire from the president and his proxies. Trump told Fox news interviewers that Fauci had “made a lot of mistakes” and said he “disagreed” with Fauci’s claim that the US was in a bad place in its coronavirus response.
Brazil 67,964 deaths, 1,713,160 cases
President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed the disease as a “little flu” as it rampaged through his country and mocked measures such as wearing masks. Two health ministers have quit and Brazil's outbreak is the second-deadliest in the world.
India 21,129 deaths, 767,296 cases
India brought in a strict nationwide lockdown in March that slowed the spread of the virus but did not bring it under control. As the country began easing controls, cases surged and it now has the third highest number. Mortality rates are low, but it is unclear if this reflects reporting problems or a relatively resilient population.
Iran 250,458 cases, 12,305 deaths
Iran had one of the first major outbreaks outside China. A lockdown slowed its spread but after that was eased in April, cases rebounded. Several senior officials have tested positive, and the government has strengthened controls, including making masks obligatory in public places.
Israel 33,947 cases, 346 deaths
Israel had an early travel ban and strict lockdowns, and in April the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared the country an example to the world in controlling Covid-19. But cases that in May were down to just 20 a day, skyrocketed after the country started opening up. Partial controls have been brought back with warnings more could follow.
Mexico 275,003 cases, 32,796 deaths
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador joined other populists from across the political spectrum in dismissing the threat from coronavirus; when schools closed in March he shared a video of himself hugging fans and kissing a baby. The outbreak is now one of the worst on the continent.
Philippines 51,754 cases, 1,314 deaths
A strict lockdown from March to June kept the disease under control but shrank the economy for the first time in 20 years. Cases have climbed steadily since the country started coming out of lockdown, and President Rodrigo Duterte has said the country cannot afford to fully reopen because it would be overwhelmed by another spike.
Russia 706,179 cases, 10,825 deaths
Coronavirus was slow to arrive in Russia, and travel bans and a lockdown initially slowed its spread, but controls were lifted twice for political reasons – a military parade and a referendum on allowing Putin to stay in power longer. Despite having the fourth biggest outbreak in the world controls are now being eased nationwide.
Serbia 17,342 cases, 352 deaths
Cases are rising rapidly, hospitals are full and doctors exhausted. But the government has rowed back from plans to bring back lockdown controls, after two days of violent protests. Critics blame the sharp rise in cases on authorities who allowed mass gatherings in May and elections in June. Officials say it is due to a lack of sanitary discipline, especially in nightclubs.
South Africa 224,664 cases, 3,602 deaths
South Africa has by far the largest outbreak on the African continent, despite one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. Sales of alcohol and cigarettes were even banned. But it began reopening in May, apparently fuelling the recent rise in cases which have more than doubled over the last two weeks.
US 132,310 deaths, 3,055,491 cases
The US ban on travellers from overseas came too late, and though most states had lockdowns of some form in spring, they varied in length and strictness. Some places that were among the earliest to lift them are now battling fast-rising outbreaks, and the country has the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths. Opposition to lockdowns and mask-wearing remains widespread.
Source: Johns Hopkins CSSE, 9 July
Described as driven and a workaholic, Fauci had found himself in the uncomfortable position of gently correcting Trump’s false or misleading statements for months. As far back as April the president retweeted a call for him to be fired, although that threat appeared to have receded.
In any case, Trump cannot fire Fauci, who enjoys support on both sides of Congress and has a public approval rating for his coronavirus response of 67% – almost three times that of Trump’s. Instead the strategy appears aimed at damaging his standing while keeping him out of the public eye by cancelling media appearances.
In the latest salvo of a coordinated briefing campaign, a White House official told CNN on Saturday that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr Fauci has been wrong on things”.
Fauci, who has diplomatically navigated Trump’s often chaotic and sometimes bizarre response to the pandemic, has long been the target of pro-Trump rightwing media in the US, where he has been denounced as “Dr Doom” or accused of being leftwing.
And having originally been a prominent fixture of Trump’s coronavirus press conferences, he is now markedly less visible.
His influence on the White House too appears to be waning. According to the Washington Post, quoting an unnamed White House official, Fauci last briefed Trump in the first week of June.
Fauci has had a long career in public health, and first came to prominence during the Aids crisis. In recent weeks he has baldly contradicted Trump’s assessments that the US is winning the fight against coronavirus, and criticised the partisan political atmosphere that he suggests has impeded the response.
In an interview for a podcast hosted by the FiveThirtyEight website last week he delivered a damning assessment of the United States’s response to the pandemic in comparison to other countries.
Conceding that some cities and states such as New York had responded better than others, Fauci said: “As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not.” He added that it was “understandable” why the European Union and others had banned US citizens from entering.
On the role of America’s toxic political climate, he said: “You have to be having blind-folders on and covering your ears to think that we don’t live in a very divisive society now, from a political standpoint … So I think you’d have to make the assumption that if there wasn’t such divisiveness, that we would have a more coordinated approach.”
Although Fauci has been at odds with Trump publicly before – not least over the president’s advocacy for the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment – his most recent interventions have strayed from the strictly scientific field to the political.
In doing so he has departed from what he has previously said is his guiding credo that “you stay completely apolitical and non-ideological, and you stick to what it is that you do. I’m a scientist and I’m a physician. And that’s it.”
The pushback against Fauci continued on Sunday when Admiral Brett Giroir, the Trump-appointed coronavirus testing tsar, told NBC that Fauci “is not 100% right” and that he doesn’t necessarily “have the whole national interest in mind”, adding that “he looks at it from a very narrow public health point of view”.
Described in a 2012 profile as “demanding and caustic with a dollop of charm”, Fauci has long given the impression that, as a general rule, he does not suffer fools gladly. Some of his colleagues told Science magazine in March that his approach to the coronavirus would be to walk a fine line in “being honest to the public and policymakers but not so openly critical that he loses influence by being ignored or forced to resign”.
Increasingly it appears that approach has collided with the reality of a president unwilling to brook any criticism or dissent.