A new complaint charges National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci with violations of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law prohibiting civil service employees from overt political activism.
The complaint, filed by the government transparency nonprofit Protect the Public’s Trust on Wednesday, focuses on statements Fauci made in the days preceding the November election.
“The COVID-19 issues was of paramount concern for voters entering the 2020 general election,” the group wrote, highlighting an August poll from the Pew Research Center that found “62 percent of voters say[ing] the outbreak will be a very important factor in their decision about who to support in the fall.” The election, meanwhile, was decided by fewer than 43,000 votes across three tipping-point states.
Yet on Oct. 30, Fauci gave an interview with the Washington Post in which the NIAID director, comfortable in his media-manufactured image as the preeminent authority on COVID-19, “intimated that the state of the nation’s public health outlook could be directly linked to the two candidates’ diverse approaches,” according to the complaint.
In the article, headlined “A whole lot of hurt: Fauci warns of COVID-19 surge, offers blunt assessment of Trump’s response,” Fauci told the paper, “you could not possibly be positioned more poorly,” emphasizing the U.S. needed an “abrupt change.”
When asked about the differences between the two candidates on their pandemic plans, Fauci said then-Democrat candidate Joe Biden “is taking it seriously from a public health perspective,” but that President Donald Trump was “looking at it from a different perspective.”
“Right now, the public health aspect of the task force has diminished greatly,” Fauci told the Post.
The Hatch Act bars a federal employee from “us[ing] his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” Fauci in particular, raking in the highest income of anyone in the federal government as a career Senior Executive Service employee, faces tougher restrictions.
The timing of the statements, combined with the circumstances of the interview and post-election comments celebrating the outcome, the complaint alleges, illustrate further intent in Fauci’s remarks that violate the Hatch Act.
“Dr. Anthony Fauci’s evaluation of the two candidates running for President during his interview with The Washington Post on October 30, 2020 demonstrated a clear intent to use his influence as one of the nation’s leading COVID-19 experts to affect the outcome of the coming national election,” the complaint reads.
In May, Fauci’s reign as “America’s doctor” began to diminish as new reporting began to raise questions around Fauci’s role in funding the high-risk research at the Wuhan lab that may have given birth to the novel coronavirus itself.
Known as “gain-of-function” research, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in collaboration with the Chinese military extracted viruses from the wild and engineered them to infect humans to study potential therapeutics including vaccines. Researchers at the same lab were also given a five-year annual grant of $600,000 from Fauci’s agency between 2014-2019, during which time gain-of-function research was banned by the federal government.
A treasure trove of emails later released in early June revealed Fauci as the “political animal” described by former Trump White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas. They show Fauci as the original anti-masker, ignoring warnings that COVID-19 was beyond containment and apparently dismissing the lab-leak theory as a “conspiracy.”
Since the release of the emails, however, Fauci has only conducted interviews with the friendly outlets that propelled his status in the first place, as opposed to sitting down with Bret Baier of Fox News, whose reporting on the lab-leak hypothesis Fauci dismissed for more than 12 months.