The latest PBS American Masters documentary profiled the face of COVID in America, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for decades and who came into public attention during the AIDS crisis and especially during COVID.
The tone is of a tireless hero Fauci bringing hard truths down the mountain to ungrateful conservatives. Yet left-wing anti-Fauci protesters from the AIDS era are remembered fondly.
Fauci won’t be doing that with anti-mandate, anti-lockdown protesters:
The motivations of these people who are attacking me, they speak for themselves. We’re dealing with a completely hyper-hostile partisan group who fundamentally – I guess you could say hate me for reasons I think I can figure out. Because I stand for something that may be inconvenient for them. It’s called the truth. That is 1,000% different than the AIDS activists. They were trying to get me to see what the truth was for them.
The doctor certainly has a healthy ego. Regarding his critics, he has previously said, “So it’s easy to criticize, but they’re really criticizing science because I represent science.” Science?
Fauci didn’t call the gay ACT-UP activists “crazy people,” as he did with right-wing protesters. He actually praised those activists and their 80’s-era disruptions at the Golden Gate Bridge and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, as well as “firebrand” Larry Kramer, who called Fauci an “incompetent idiot” and “murderer” in the San Francisco Examiner. Fauci is now friends with radical AIDS activists and the documentary shows them sitting down in a living room drinking wine.
A film crew began following Fauci at the dawn of the Biden administration and kept it up through 2022, conducting 10 interviews in all. The two-hour piece opens with Fauci at home watching CNN’s coverage of the Biden inauguration, which goes on for two and a half minutes.
Fortune magazine talked to doc director Mark Mannucci, who betrayed how his profile was tilted toward hagiography from the start: “The story illuminates — and [Fauci would] be the first to say it — some very dark stuff about this country and how a person who has devoted his life to helping individuals got so twisted in this current climate….”
The documentary made much of the United States rejoining the World Health Organization under the new Biden administration, after Trump had withdrawn the U.S. No context is offered absent the Fauci-filter. There was nothing about the W.H.O’s closeness to China that caused it to spout bizarre pro-China conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID (frozen food!), or its own failure to recommend masks until June 2020.
Fauci boasted he would make the official announcement at a health assembly: “Everything that we wanted done that the Trump administration didn’t want to do has been completely overridden by this. So it’s gonna be huge!” After the announcement, he boasted “That was an extraordinary moment. You could feel the relief from representatives of the other countries, a feeling of freedom. Sort of an unshackling of, not just on me personally, but on the entire system, that you could let science speak.”
Even the ostensible entertainment shows got in on the act of Fauci-fawning with the doctor appearing on Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert’s shows. Clips are shown of Fauci mixing it up with hostile Republican Rep. Jim Jordan demanding to know when lost liberties can be restored, and then Fauci is later allowed the last word. “I’ve developed, over the years, the ability to be able to tolerate a whole bunch of s–t [silenced], because the greater good of what you’re trying to do completely supersedes the nonsense. People like Jim Jordan and others throw that up at you. You think about it, and you say to yourself, You ass.’”
Social media has already circulated the clip of his embarrassing trip going door to door in June 2021, with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in the city’s poor black neighborhood Anacostia, trying to pump up vaccine rates there. They were met with skepticism. (So it’s not just Republicans who are vaccine-hesitant, even though Fauci himself complained about low vax rates among Republicans during that walk.) He only admits he was wrong for not insisting on masks sooner.
Support for PBS’s American Masters series is provided in part by the lobbyists of AARP.