THE WASHINGTON POST – Anthony S. Fauci was swamped by so many angry messages and threats that in late October his assistant quit answering the phone for two weeks.
The U.S. covid chief got 3,600 phone calls in 36 hours, just as he and other Biden administration officials were preparing for the campaign to vaccinate young children.
Much of the onslaught stemmed from a viral and false claim that the agency Fauci leads, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had funded a medical experiment in which beagles were trapped in mesh cages filled with diseased sand flies, according to four National Institutes of Health officials familiar with the calls.
The outrage was supercharged by a bipartisan letter signed by 24 members of Congress that questioned the agency’s funding of medical research on dogs.
Said a caller in one of 15 voice mails obtained by The Washington Post:
“You worthless piece of s—, you should be put in prison. Torturing animals!”
“I’d like to take you out in the sand, tie you down, put them fleas all over your a–.”
Fauci has been a controversial figure during the pandemic, in part because of his public clashes with President Donald Trump over Fauci’s support for masks and opposition to unproven covid cures.
But a surge of harassment and threats in recent weeks has forced staff at his agency to spend significant time debunking misinformation and grappling with security concerns, according to three of the NIH officials and four senior administration officials, who like some others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
“The constant harassment in the form of ridiculous accusations and outright lies makes doing my job and that of my staff of fighting the covid-19 pandemic all the more difficult,” Fauci said in an interview …