NY Times columnist surprises with op-ed criticism of Fauci

Bret Stephens, a columnist for The New York Times, uncharacteristically criticized the nation’s lead immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci in a Tuesday column in relation to the Biden administration’s pushback against alleged COVID-19 “misinformation.”

In an op-ed titled, “Covid Misinformation Comes From the Top, Too,” he wrote that the “misinformation saga” extends past “charlatans peddling fake cures and political conspiracy theories” before citing a recent explosive exchange between Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), regarding whether NIH-funded “gain of function research” at a research institute in Wuhan, China, was responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fauci is almost certainly right on the technical merits … But the larger truth — obscured until recently by fervent efforts (including by Fauci) to dismiss the lab-leak theory for the origins of the pandemic — is that the U.S. government’s scientific establishment did support gain-of-function research that deserved far more public debate than it got,” Stephens noted.

“Also incontrovertibly true is that beneficiaries of that funding engaged in deceptive tactics and outright mendacity to shield their research from public scrutiny while denouncing their critics as conspiracymongers,” he continued.

The op-ed writer went on to cite a bombshell report published last month by Vanity Fair magazine which noted that officials with the State Department were instructed to ignore gain-of-function research being performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology because “it would bring unwelcome attention to the U.S. government funding of it.”

“If millions feel that some public-health experts are not as heroic or as honest as their media stenographers make them out to be, there’s a good reason for it,” Stephens noted in his column.

During their fiery exchange, Paul accused Fauci of lying about funding gain of function research, which aims to make take existing viruses and make them more contagious so they are easier to study. Fauci pushed back and accused the Kentucky Republican of being dishonest, though Paul would go on to make good on a pledge to refer Fauci to the Justice Department for allegedly lying to Congress.

Stephens then went on to accuse Fauci of being dishonest regarding previous comments about achieving herd immunity, writing that the immunologist “lied…about what he saw as the threshold figure,” pointing to a December interview with the paper in which he said, “his gut feeling is that the country is finally ready to hear what he thinks.”

The columnist also cited the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s false, inflated data on the outdoor spread of the virus as well as its study claiming that black and Hispanic kids were “at greater risk of being hospitalized,” a report that contributed to schools closing though there had been consistent proof schools did not serve as superspreaders for children.

“The impact of this misinformation on everyday life has been immense … The credibility of public-health experts depends on the understanding that the job of informing the public means offering the whole truth, uncertainties included, rather than offering Noble Lies in the service of whatever they think the public needs to hear,” Stephens wrote.

“So, by all means, let’s continue to expose and denounce misinformation coming from the fever swamps of Alternative America. But it won’t do sufficient good until the guardians of public health hold themselves to a higher standard of truthfulness and accountability,” Stephens added, concluding: “Physician, heal thyself.”

Jon Dougherty

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