Critics Love National Geographic’s ‘Fauci’ Documentary. Viewers Say It Stinks

Critics Love National Geographic’s ‘Fauci’ Documentary. Viewers Say It Stinks

The disconnect between elite appreciation for the celebratory documentary and the reception by the broader public reflects the divide over the doctor himself.
Tristan Justice
By

The ratings are in for National Geographic’s documentary “Fauci” on Rotten Tomatoes, and it couldn’t reflect more the divide over the protagonist, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci.

The documentary, which began streaming on Disney Plus on Oct. 6 after its initial release in select theaters last month, scored with all the right people including establishment film critics, while it bombed among the broader population. Sounds about right.

According to the popular review website that pairs ratings from the “expert” class side-by-side with layman viewers, the Tomatometer, expressing the views of ordained critics, offers a 94 percent positive rating compared to just 2 percent of the general audience who gave similar praise.

As the layman ratings continued to rot over the weekend, the website appeared to temporarily halt audience reviews Monday morning.

The elite disparity between audience reception and expert appetite is by no means unique to the documentary profiling one of the most polarizing figures of the coronavirus outbreak, but it is among the most extreme. Comedian Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special released last week has so far been met with 97 percent audience approval in the face of establishment critics who blasted the stand-up as “transphobic” to give it a score of 33 percent.

“Cuties,” another Netflix release, was given a “fresh” Tomatometer score of 88 percent while the audience found the borderline-pornographic film featuring underage children repulsive, with 16 percent approval.

The disconnect over the Fauci documentary’s reception perfectly encapsulates the disconnect over the lifelong bureaucrat’s pandemic influence. Held up on a pedestal by the establishment as an heroic arbiter of science and medicine operating in the face of Trumpian adversity, the general population has come to discover “America’s Doctor” as an arrogant political animal who’s lectured the public with remarkable inconsistency and to detrimental consequences. National Geographic predictably painted Fauci as the former.

Throughout the documentary, criticism is weak if not virtually non-existent, centered on his early role coordinating the federal response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Those who knocked Fauci’s detrimental performance early in the epidemic praised him by the end of the film for his efforts in the creation of PEPFAR, a $15 billion presidential initiative signed by President George W. Bush to provide AIDS treatment in Africa and the Caribbean.

Similar to his work on the COVID-19 outbreak decades later, Fauci monopolized the federal response to give sole priority to the antiviral drug AZT, or azidothymidine, as opposed to exploring alternative remedies while placing faith in the development of a vaccine that never came. The documentary’s narrative painted Fauci as an astute political observer who navigated the crisis with a high degree of medical credibility in the noble profession of public service.

Fauci responded to critics of his decisions in the AIDS crisis similarly to how he responds to those who’ve highlighted his errors amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Righteously perplexed, and never mistaken.

“It was a little confusing because I, who had been knocking myself out trying to do the right thing, was the object of the anger,” Fauci said of protestors during the AIDS epidemic.

At the onset of the documentary featuring COVID criticism filmmakers drew almost exclusively from Fox News talking heads, Fauci made a similar snark: “I represent something that’s uncomfortable to them. It’s called the truth.”

Absent from the documentary was any mention that the highest-paid federal official knowingly lied to the public about, among other things, the threshold for percentage of vaccinated people required to reach a safe level of herd immunity.

“When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,” Fauci told The New York Times in 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.”

Yes, the “truth.”

One point of criticism that did make the documentary was the NIAID director’s flip-flop on face masks. Fauci went from being the original anti-masker to encouraging Americans wear two masks post-vaccination.

The inconsistency was surprisingly brought up by The New York Times’ COVID reporter Apoorva Mandavilli, the same journalist who derided the plausible lab-leak theory to explain the virus’ origin as racist, and just last week overestimated the number of children hospitalized from the virus by more than 800,000.

“I think that was confusing for people,” Mandavilli said of Fauci’s reversal on masks.

Most notably absent from the documentary, however, which characterized former President Donald Trump and Fox News prime-time hosts as comic book obstacles to the Faucian prescribed science, was any mention of his potential role in the very creation of the virus.

A longtime champion of high-risk “gain-of-function” research — wherein scientists extract viruses from the wild and engineer them to infect humans to study potential therapeutics such as vaccines — Fauci successfully circumvented a federal moratorium on its funding to support such dangerous experiments overseas at the very site of COVID-19’s first outbreak, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Using a technical definition of the term to avoid the connection between U.S. tax dollars and the birth of the novel coronavirus, blockbuster revelations that Fauci lied under oath before lawmakers on Capitol Hill received no mention. One could expect no different, however, from a magazine part of the same media apparatus that’s catapulted the doctor to unrelenting fame among the establishment elite.

Meanwhile, Americans nationwide have begun to move on from the hysterical fearmongering that’s kept Fauci’s popularity alive among legacy media, telling CBS earlier this month it was “too soon to tell” if the COVID-commander-in-chief could give his blessing on family Christmas gatherings this year.

True to form, Fauci backtracked on his calls to cancel Christmas 24 hours later.

Tristan Justice is the western correspondent for The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter at @JusticeTristan or contact him at [email protected]

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