After Vice President Mike Pence was put in charge of the coronavirus response, one of his first moves was to order a leading expert on infectious diseases not to say anything to the public without obtaining permission from the VP.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, previously stressed to the public that “we are dealing with a serious virus,” and that it could take up to a year and a half to create a workable vaccine to combat coronavirus. But according to The New York Times, Fauci has now been told to keep his mouth shut.
"Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the country’s leading experts on viruses and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance."#covid19 https://t.co/J8k8L4CWzC
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) February 27, 2020
This appears to be a response to criticism over the government sharing conflicting information about the coronavirus in recent days.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised that it’s best to prepare for a domestic outbreak of the disease, President Trump contradicted that statement, claiming the coronavirus is contained and the number of people infected will soon drop.
“When you have 15 people [infected], and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” Trump claimed on Wednesday, despite reports that there are currently at least 60 Americans infected with the virus.
The spread of conflicting and inaccurate information during a worldwide health emergency is dangerous, and it makes sense that Pence would try to streamline public statements to make sure everyone is on the same page.
However, effectively silencing the man who has advised six presidents on previous health issues and often spoken to the public to share accurate and concise information on these topics while the President himself spreads misinformation, simply to keep a unified front, seems like a misguided decision at best.
“Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama trusted Tony Fauci to be their top adviser on infectious disease, and the nation’s most trusted communicator to the public,” former U.S. Ebola response coordinator Ronald Klain wrote on Twitter. “If Trump is changing that, it is a threat to public health and safety.”
Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama trusted Tony Fauci to be their top adviser on infectious disease, and the nation's most trusted communicator to the public. If Trump is changing that, it is a threat to public health and safety. https://t.co/0zvs7FRPix
— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) February 27, 2020
Others have shared Klain’s concern, and expressed uncertainty that the American public will receive the information that we need about the virus if everything has to be routed through Pence first.
During the Ebola outbreak, we couldn’t get enough of @NIH’s Dr. Fauci because no one knew more or could deliver it with more authority or experience. Muzzling Dr. Fauci is an effort to muzzle fact and science when it’s needed most. https://t.co/szZLZO7mmT
— Ned Price (@nedprice) February 27, 2020
Hi, this is insane. Fauci has 50+ yrs experience tracking + protecting the country + world from emergent diseases, and is absolutely the face and voice any administration that isn't a bunch of science-hating propagandist circus clowns should want out front informing the public. https://t.co/hej7thuRT1
— Molly McKew (@MollyMcKew) February 27, 2020
Uh-oh. Who’d trust Propaganda Minister Mike Pence over guys like NIH’s immunology expert Dr. Anthony Fauci? This is where authoritarian government becomes manifestly dangerous to your (all of our) health and even survival. https://t.co/kIAl8LnZbY
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) February 27, 2020
in case there was any doubt this administration is asleep at the wheel. we need daily briefings from #Fauci — we have no indication anyone else in this admin has public safety as their #1 priority https://t.co/hpOchZliHq
— alyssa GrudgePAC mastromonaco 🌽⚔️ (@AlyssaMastro44) February 28, 2020
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a legend in the study of infectious diseases, stood in front of the president and said (without saying it) that something the president said was not correct.
This is why we need career experts and not just wackadoo hacks in the government.
— Molly McKew (@MollyMcKew) February 27, 2020
But ego may win out over factual information. As writer Molly McKew pointed out, Fauci dared to contradict President Trump in order to put forth accurate and necessary information about coronavirus. And truth, when it contradicts Trump, doesn’t often seem to have a place in the current White House.