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GUEST COLUMN: Attacks On Science And Scientists Intensify

The following is an excerpt of a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia published by on June 13, 2024.

Last week MAGA members of Congress demonized the nation’s foremost public health expert and continued to spew disinformation that has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives.


In a hearing purportedly on the source of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green called for Dr. Anthony Fauci to be imprisoned for "crimes against humanity." She refused to address him as doctor and called for his medical license to be revoked. His purported crime? According to Taylor Greene, “making up guidelines, like six-feet distancing and masking of children.” She referred to these practices as “abuse” and asked whether “the American people deserve to be abused like that.”

Dr. Fauci, who served for decades as the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, is considered by many to be the most distinguished public health professional in the United States. Throughout 2020, he tried to counter the disinformation President Donald Trump and his allies spread. Trump persistently denounced Fauci, who received multiple death threats from Trump supporters and needed – and continues to need – a robust security detail to keep him and his family safe.


In my new book, The Trump Contagion: How Incompetence, Dishonesty, and Neglect Led to the Worst Handled Crisis in American History, I cover Trump's and MAGAs' attacks on science and scientists, including Dr. Fauci. I also note the deadly consequences of these attacks: Trump's followers' refusal to follow basic health and safety precautions, especially wearing masks and getting vaccinated. Specifically, I explore how these attacks on scientists and on science set the conditions for massive escalation of Americans dying from COVID-19 at rates that surpassed every other industrialized nation.

On the last day of June 2020, Dr. Fauci testified before a Senate Committee. He warned that the nation was going in the wrong direction. He said, “Clearly we are not in total control… I’m very concerned because this could get very bad.” On the day he testified, 131,818 Americans had died of COVID-19. Another 30,000 Americans would die of COVID-19 the following month.


For months starting in mid-2020 advisors to the president had floated the idea of “herd immunity,” allowing people to get sick on purpose to create natural immunity in the population. The danger, of course, is that as more people get sick, more and more die. On October 15, Forbes warned, “Trump Administration Goes All In on Herd Immunity.”

The piece noted that even as HHS Secretary Alex Azar said that herd immunity is not an explicit strategy, “… frequently the Trump Administration’s rhetoric tells a different story; for example, Trump’s statement last month that ‘herd mentality,’ presumably referencing herd immunity, would protect against the coronavirus.”

That same day Dr. Fauci went on ABC Good Morning America and said the herd immunity idea embraced by the White House was “ridiculous” and “total nonsense.” 

He told George Stephanopoulos: “And if you talk to anybody who has any experience in epidemiology and infectious diseases, they will tell you that that is risky and you’ll wind up with many more infections of vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalizations and deaths. So I think that we just got to look that square in the eye and say it’s nonsense.”

Several days later, Trump attacked Dr. Fauci. On a call with campaign staff that reporters could listen to, Trump called Dr. Fauci “a disaster” and said that people were “tired” of hearing about the virus and wanted to be left alone: “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong… Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. This guy’s a disaster.”

In the final two months of Trump’s presidency, vaccines were approved and distributed to the individual states. But Trump did not take the opportunity to promote vaccinations and encourage people to protect themselves and each other. Rather, he was six weeks into scheming 24/7 about how to remain president. 


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