Dr. Tony Fauci, who served as director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for decades, retired as a federal employee yesterday. He plans to write a memoir and accept speaking engagements to encourage people to choose careers in public service. He also says he’ll show up for House Republicans’ planned show trials if asked.
Republicans have relentlessly vilified Fauci, starting with Donald Trump, whose juvenile sneering was eagerly taken up by a vile parade of imitators like Rand Paul and Ron DeSantis. Maybe their innate amorality reacts on a cellular level to Fauci’s inherent integrity. It’s unsurprising but especially outrageous, considering the tremendous debt this country owes Fauci.
I’m old enough to remember when AIDS was an automatic death sentence that was killing so many gay guys in my friend set in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Fauci was on the job then too, and from the earliest days of the crisis, he was working with activists who were reviled by mainstream medical establishments, politicians and news outlets. Fauci worked his ass off to try to get answers on treatments and encourage GOP administrations to care about the carnage.
Peter Staley, an early member of the AIDS activist group ACT UP, wrote a guest essay for the NYT on his working relationship with Fauci and the friendship that grew between them over the years. Here’s a gift link and excerpt:
The regular meetings [Fauci] had with an ACT UP member, Bill Bahlman, continued even after Larry Kramer, one of the group’s founders, wrote an open letter to Dr. Fauci in The Village Voice calling him a murderer and comparing him to the Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann. But there Dr. Fauci was, meeting with me and my comrades, branded radical homosexuals, to discuss our policy proposal for upending longstanding Food and Drug Administration strictures against public access to drugs before they are approved…
Within months, hundreds of ACT UPers were surrounding his building at the N.I.H., and I was the first one arrested, after climbing onto its portico. Cops wrestled me down, bound my hands behind me with a zip tie, then hauled me through the building to a police van. The burly cop pulling my shoulder was dumbfounded when a familiar short man in a white lab coat walking toward us down the hallway yelled, “Peter, are you all right?” Laughing, I replied, “I’m fine. Just doing my job. How about you, Tony?”…
When Covid hit and the rest of the world got to know Dr. Fauci, he leaned on us for guidance… I’ve always been a politician among the activists, and it’s been the honor of my life that he leaned on me hard during his tumultuous year navigating “team normal” and “team crazy” in President Donald Trump’s orbit.
Because he crossed Mr. Trump, Dr. Fauci was turned into a villain for the MAGA crowd, providing fodder for those who thrive on conspiracies and hate. There has rarely been a larger gap between a mob’s viciousness and its target’s decency.
Emphasis mine because it’s the plain truth. As Staley notes, Dr. Fauci has his faults like everyone else, but he did an extraordinarily hard job competently, and he dedicated his life to saving lives. Bullies like Trump and DeSantis aren’t fit to shine Dr. Fauci’s wingtips. I hope he has a long, enjoyable and productive retirement and lives to see the goons who vilified him disgraced and shunned as they deserve.