The Corner

Politics & Policy

Trust the Science?

Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 23, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Reuters Pool)

Anthony Fauci is literally The Science, personified and made flesh. That’s why Republicans hate him, you see. When asked about his critics on Face the Nation yesterday, Fauci responded:

So it’s easy to criticize, but they’re really criticizing science because I represent science. That’s dangerous. To me, that’s more dangerous than the slings and the arrows that get thrown at me. I’m not going to be around here forever, but science is going to be here forever. And if you damage science, you are doing something very detrimental to society long after I leave. And that’s what I worry about.

“I’m going to be saving lives, and they’re going to be lying,” Fauci continued. 

This is not the first time Fauci has presented himself this way — far from it. In June, he told Chuck Todd of NBC News: “A lot of what you’re seeing as attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science, because all of the things that I have spoken about, consistently from the very beginning, have been fundamentally based on science.” Just to drive the point home, he reiterated: “People want to fire me or put me in jail for what I’ve done — namely, follow the science.” He doubled down later that week on Chelsea Clinton’s podcast, expressing shock at the “phenomenal amount of hostility” he’s received “merely because I’m promoting what are really fundamental, simple public-health principles.” And then again toward the end of the same month, when asked about his “evolution” — a charitable descriptor, to say the least — on the efficacy of masks: “It is essential as a scientist that you evolve your opinion and your recommendations based on the data as it evolves,” he told interviewer Kara Swisher. “And that’s the reason why I say people who then criticize me about that are actually criticizing science.”

Of course, the scientific objectivity that Fauci is invoking is a ridiculous myth. As Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote this morning in response to the Face the Nation clip:

Public health was already deeply politicized. Public-health bodies kowtowed to China early in the pandemic and dragged their feet on declaring a public-health emergency because they wished to spare from embarrassment the oversensitive Communists who run China. Public-health officials were against border controls early on, not because the science backed up their view, but because their politics required it. Fauci amplified Peter Daszak’s campaign to label the lab-leak theory a ‘conspiracy theory’ because of politics; they believed that it would hinder funding of research they believed in.

In spite of Fauci’s claims to the contrary, he and his compatriots in the public-health bureaucracy are the ones who are primarily responsible for politicizing “facts” and “data.” If we take the good doctor at his word, and accept that he is The Science, then . . . why should we trust science? As the official mouthpiece of objective expertise, Fauci’s — excuse me, The Science’s — record is remarkably bad, from masks and the lab-leak theory to NIH funding for gain-of-function research in Wuhan and an open admission of lying about vaccination rates because apparently the country wasn’t ready to hear the real numbers: “When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,” the augural prophet of The Science told the New York Times last December. “Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.”

All this happens as public-health bureaucrats bemoan declining public trust in science and expertise. Here’s Fauci himself speaking on a panel literally titled “Public Trust in Science” back in November 2020: “Things as simple as public-health measures like wearing a mask, avoiding close contact, not congregating indoors . . . the pushback against it has a political and ideological connotation to it. You cannot properly and successfully implement a public-health program when you have that much of a disagreement in society, because infectious diseases don’t distinguish between one’s ideology.”

Right. Anthony Fauci, the patron saint of “In This House, We Believe: Science Is Real” yard signs, is a totally apolitical actor — a faceless font of facts and data. Anyone who disagrees with him, however, is an ideologue. What’s so hard to understand about that?

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