- A new documentary from National Geographic tracks Dr. Anthony Fauci’s life and career.
- In the film, Fauci shines about the harassing phone calls his wife and daughters have received during the pandemic.
- He also shared a moment last summer when he opened a letter and thought “I’m completely dead.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where he says he quickly learned that “you did not take any shit from anyone.”
He carried that spirit with him through the HIV / AIDS crisis in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, met with activists and eventually included them in the process of developing clinical trials of new life-saving drugs.
But when coronavirus emerged about two years ago, the level of vitriol felt directed at Dr. Fauci Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the United States’ leading adviser on COVID-19 completely different. It extended to his family, including his wife and three adult daughters, in a brand of threatening personal attacks driven by online rage.
“These fucking dark web people are getting really, really bad,” Fauci said in a new National Geographic documentary to AIDS activist Peter Staley, who checked in on him during the summer of 2020.
“I mean, they’re really, really harassing,” Fauci said, referring to his wife, nurse Christine Grady, head of the bioethics department at the National Institutes of Health.
Fauci and Staley had previously had their own disagreements – at one point, Staley was even arrested during a demonstration against the NIH, where people held up signs calling for Fauci’s departure.
But “the difference now is that division dominates COVID-19,” Fauci said.
‘Dark Web People’ targeted Fauci and his family
The one-hour, 40-minute film, “Fauci,” now streaming on Disney +, shares glimpses of Fauci during the pandemic and provides a window into the extensive harassment and threats he has received over the past few years.
At one point during the summer of 2020, Fauci’s entire family had to be granted personal security, at a time when people, including right-wing QAnon supporters, launched serious threats against the virus expert and members of the Trump White House tried to discredit him.
“One of them called with violent threats like eight times today on her cell phone until she figured ‘I just need to change my cell phone,'” Fauci said of his wife, adding that the threats extended to his three daughters, who were targeted “constantly – which really bothers me more than anything else.”
These forms of threats and harassment were something his family had never experienced, despite Fauci’s past ranks and frequent disagreements with AIDS activists, including Staley.
“I do not understand the hatred that people have and the hatred that makes them do something that could hurt someone or kill someone,” Grady said of the threats. “It diminishes my confidence in humanity.”
When he opened a letter and ‘there came a puff of powder’
In August 2020, just as Fauci had begun to believe that “everything is fine” again, he opened a letter in the workplace, and “there came a puff of powder.”
“It was on my shirt, my tie, my pants, my hands and my chin,” Fauci said. “The first thing I thought of was ‘holy shit, why did I open this letter?'”
Quickly he says “the possibilities started to crystallize in my mind: One – it’s a hoax, two – it’s anthrax and I get sick but I take cipro[floxacin] and I’m fine. Or three – it’s ricin and I’m completely dead. “
The powder turned out to be benign option number one, but meanwhile, while being tested, Fauci had to get away and be swallowed up in a chemical lab version of a children’s pool, according to the book “Nightmare Scenario.”
Fauci tells his haters that he represents the truth and ‘it’s uncomfortable for them’
Fauci understands that he is still “the bad guy” for many people.
“I represent something that is unpleasant to them – it’s called the truth,” he said.
He feels confident that the pandemic will end, but it will not be due to any newfound unity or collective action on the part of the public.
“I think we’ll get through it, but we’ll get through it despite this division and this politicization,” he said.