Chief immunologist Anthony Fauci testifying at a Senate hearing last month. (Stefani Reynolds/REUTERS)
Anthony Fauci’s emails spark misinformation frenzy
The recently released email correspondence of Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, is being used to push false and misleading narratives about the Covid-19 pandemic.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congresswoman and conspiracy theorist, was one of several influential figures to inaccurately describe the emails as “leaked,” in a tweet shared at least 4,000 times. Government correspondence is broadly subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act; BuzzFeed and The Washington Post had made FOIA requests for the emails. Greene’s tweet contained the Twitter hashtag #firefauci, which spiked on June 2 after the emails were published, and propelled by posts from her and fellow Republican House member Lauren Boebert and Senator Rand Paul.
Several other commentators latched onto an email Fauci sent in February 2020, where he suggested a mask would not likely protect its wearer against coronavirus. This email was the subject of an article in The Gateway Pundit conspiracy theorist website that has been shared at least 1,200 times on Facebook. The scientific consensus around whether a mask protects its wearer, in addition to those around them, had not emerged at that point; further scientific evidence has since supported masks’ benefits. The release of that email was also far from a revelation. Fauci had already been criticized for that early mask wearing advice — which he also publicly issued weeks after the email that Greene and others characterized as a “leak” was sent.
Others used the Fauci emails to promote the unproven lab-leak theory. Australian journalist Sharri Markson — who has advanced dubious arguments in favor of the lab-leak hypothesis — highlighted an email from virologist Kristian Andersen to Fauci which, Markson suggested, showed Andersen acknowledging the possibility that Covid-19 could have been “engineered.” Andersen yesterday dismissed Markson’s insinuation of a “massive cover-up.” — First Draft staff