While Fauci is one of the most cited researchers of all time and has been widely known in scientific circles for decades, it was the coronavirus pandemic that catapulted him to worldwide fame — and ignited criticism from some Republican politicians and threats from the public.
Anthony Fauci is up against more than a virus
Fauci, who spoke about his impending departure in a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post, had been a lightning rod before, most notably during the early days of the AIDS crisis when activists clamored for a swifter government response as they watched friends die. But the coronavirus pandemic arrived in a strikingly different era, with social media pouring fuel on the criticism and baseless conspiracy theories leveled at Fauci and others presiding over the federal government’s response.
Fauci conceded that he and other government scientists were wrong about masks in the beginning. He said they were worried about having enough face coverings for overwhelmed health-care workers and did not yet see evidence that masks were effective in preventing infection outside of hospitals, which later became clear, particularly as scientists realized the virus was airborne.
Those factors “led the surgeon general of the United States, the CDC and me to say, right now, you really don’t need to wear a mask and all of a sudden, it became Tony Fauci is the mask guy,” Fauci said. “Since I am the primary target of the far right, when the far right says you got it wrong, it isn’t that everybody got it wrong — it’s that Tony Fauci got it wrong.”
“It was one of the most important challenges that we have had to face, and I believe my team and I — and let history be the judge of that — have made a major contribution,” Fauci said. “We didn’t do it alone, but we played a major role in the development of the vaccines that have now saved millions of lives.”
But Fauci said the pandemic, which has claimed more than 1 million lives in the United States, proved “extremely stressful.”
In the interview, Fauci said he wanted to step down from his government post while still healthy, energetic and passionate about his field and enthusiastic about the next stage of his career.
He also reflected on anti-science sentiments that have proliferated, mistakes he and other scientists made during the pandemic, deep national divisions infecting politics that have put democracy at risk, and lessons learned from the government and national response to the coronavirus.
Fauci emphasized that he is not exiting the public square. He said he hopes to teach, lecture, write — perhaps a book, along with essays and other types of writing — and use his experience to inspire and teach a younger generation of scientists.
“I love everything about this place. … But even with that, I said I’m going to have to leave some time,” Fauci said. “I don’t want to be here so long that I get to the point where I lose a step.”
News Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2022/08/22/fauci-retiring/