Anthony Fauci is the person of the hour — so, naturally, he’s also a target | COMMENTARY

In this April 1, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appears at the White House, in Washington. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum is creating a bobblehead of Dr. Fauci, wearing a suit, as he discusses the coronavirus pandemic. He has also reportedly been the target of death threats and has recently received enhanced security.

Eighty-seven years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote the playbook for communicating with the American people during a time of crisis. His fireside chats, delivered by radio from the White House, were confident, reassuring and soothing. They are not remembered as partisan diatribes. They were not self-aggrandizing. Rather, they were a calm and rational explanation of how the U.S. had fallen into the Great Depression and a call for all Americans to support New Deal policies that would help reverse this dreadful course. Within two weeks of his first such speech, Americans were already returning much of the cash they had withdrawn from banks in fear that the entire financial system was in collapse.

Today, in a far more complex media environment, the notion of a president explaining life to millions by way of the radio networks in this intimate manner seems absurd. It’s especially far-fetched under Donald Trump, whose model isn’t Roosevelt so much as the Kardashians. Turmoil, conflict, self-love — these are his stock-in-trade. It is reality television’s take on reality — full of bluster and bravado but devoid of sincerity.Yet even in the midst of a health crisis of historic proportions with a president hopelessly divorced from the truth, there has been at least one person who has inspired public confidence in the manner of an FDR, who has served as the voice of reason, who has been consistent, reliable, honest and candid.


That would be Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a widely-respected immunologist who has advised a half-dozen presidents on outbreaks such as HIV/AIDS. To suggest Dr. Fauci has become the calm in the middle of the COVID-19 storm underestimates his value. He’s been the calm in the middle of the White House, in the middle of our living rooms, in the middle of our collective nightmare. His nightly time at the podium, as a member of the White House coronavirus task force, is inevitably the daily highlight. Here’s why: You can believe him. Public reliance on his well-informed opinions has become so intense that when he’s absent from the briefing, the panic on social media is apparent.

Last week’s revelation that Dr. Fauci is now facing death threats and has required beefed-up security might, even in these depressing times, rank as the most dispiriting news to come out of a week where U.S. unemployment claims hit a record 6.6 million and the COVID-19 death rate marched on. When did America file for moral bankruptcy? According to reports, it appears Dr. Fauci’s unfortunate circumstance is, at least in part, due to a head-in-hand moment during one of Mr. Trump’s windier appearances at the podium last month. The face-palm gesture was interpreted as an act of frustration at presidential misinformation and got quite a bit of meme action on social media platforms like Facebook. It’s quite possible the more cultish of Trump acolytes were stirred into threatening behavior.


We should weep that we live in a society where one of the best of us, someone clearly acting in the public’s interest and whose role is not just better informing the public but saving lives — not theoretically, but literally: taking actions that could spare tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of them — requires an armed guard around the clock. Perhaps that observation dates us to the 1930s and Captain America-like idealism or naivete. Presidents have their Secret Service agents. Even the Kardashian sisters have their private security details.

Dr. Fauci, to his credit, has shrugged it off as the dark side of celebrity. “I’ve chosen this life. I know what it is," he told the “Today” show. “There are things about it that sometimes are disturbing. But you just focus on the job you have to do. And just put all that other stuff aside.”

Naturally, such fearlessness gives us another reason to admire him. And to justify why Donuts Delite in Rochester, N.Y. sells doughnuts with his edible likeness on top with a dollop of buttercream. Godspeed, Dr. Fauci, and keep up the good fight.

The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.