Alex Brandon/AP

Viewpoint: Protect Dr. Fauci

Congress should act to ensure that directors of the various parts of the National Institutes of Health—of whom Anthony Fauci is one—cannot be fired for dissenting from the president’s views.

President Donald Trump’s coronavirus briefings are nothing if not confusing. One day, it’s “It will go away,” and another, it’s “This is a tough one because it spreads so quickly, like nothing we’ve seen.” In contrast with these mixed messages have been the candid assessments of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.


Fauci has dissented from Trump’s projected timetable of a few months to a year for vaccine development and his promotion of the antimalarial drug chloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19 despite the lack of clinical trials. Observers have wondered—“not for nothing,” as Tony Soprano would say—whether Fauci’s candor would result in his being muzzled or fired at Trump’s behest. Attacks on Fauci have become routine in the right-wing media to which Trump so often responds.

Human lives depend on information-based messaging about public health—messaging that can be compromised when electoral politics interferes unduly. If Trump were to believe the #FakeFauci tweets alleging a conspiracy to undermine the president’s public support, he could have Fauci dismissed or demand that his messages be more upbeat.