WASHINGTON – Asked Monday while appearing on ABC's Good Morning America about protests popping up around the country against local stay-at-home measures, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned such demonstrations may "backfire."
“I think the message is that, clearly, this is something that is hurting from the standpoint of economics, from the standpoint of things that have nothing to do with the virus,” Fauci replied. “But, unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery, economically, is not gonna happen.”
He continued, “If you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re gonna set yourself back. So as painful as it is to go by the careful guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening, it’s going to backfire. That’s the problem.”
“Clearly this is something that this is hurting …. but unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery, economically, is not going to happen.” — NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci on protests against stay-at-home orders.pic.twitter.com/n7x3cunEAm— Good Morning America (@GMA)April 20, 2020
Multiple rallies organized through social media have been cropping up last week, and more are planned for this week, deploying thousands of protesters. They all had a common message to governors: relax the strict stay-at-home orders deployed to combat COVID-19.
Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become a steady and consistent voice from the White House during the coronavirus pandemic, earning national name-recognition for his appearances at President Donald Trump's daily coronavirus press-briefings.
Fauci's moments of bluntness regarding the pandemic has made him a rescuer in the eyes of most Americans. However, among a series of conservative groups who want the country back open, he's become the person to blame.
Chants of "fire Fauci" rang out at a protest in Houston, Texas over the weekend, referencing a hashtag used by some in the conservative movement.
As of Monday evening, the U.S. coronavirus death toll rose to surpass 41,000; there are more than 778,000 confirmed cases, according to John Hopkins University data. The number of worldwide cases was nearing 2.5 million; there are over 169,000 deaths.
His warnings directly contradicted Trump's calls to "liberate" states where people protested social distancing measures enacted to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Both Trump and Fauci have disputed each other's statements during the course of the epidemic.
"LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" the president exclaimed in one tweet. "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" he cried in another. "LIBERATE VIRGINIA! and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!" he wrote in a third.
Last weekend, Trump had re-tweeted a supporters' statement that Fauci should be fired. He did not explicitly endorse the call to remove Fauci in his retweet, but in recirculating it, he defended himself against claims he did not act quickly enough to curb the spread of the virus.
Trump and his team then later defended the retweet, denouncing it to "media chatter" and Trump told reporters, "I walk in I hear I'm going to fire him. I'm not firing – I think he's a wonderful guy."
Many pro-open protesters and conservatives have still been echoing calls of conspiracy theories online regarding Fauci, nonetheless.
Popular Trump supporter Shiva Ayyadurai, who once ran for the U.S. Senate against Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA., and falsely claims to be the inventor of email, has been pushing the rhetoric that Fauci has "significant and deep conflicts of interest with Big Pharma" and is exploiting the coronavirus to "force medical mandates vaccines upon all Americans."
The Deep State#FakeScience Establishment led by Fauci cares ZERO about the Immune Health of the American People. To them every problem is an infectious disease - a#CoronaVirus - & every solution is a#vaccine. Time to DESTROY Big Pharma.#FireFaucihttps://t.co/7GM9TIzUlM— Dr.SHIVA Ayyadurai, MIT PhD. Inventor of Email (@va_shiva)April 5, 2020
Trump-favorite Conservative media pundits Rush Limbaugh, whom Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Alex Jones, have demeaned Fauci and questioned the severity of COVID-19.
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Jones, the host of Infowars, attended the protest at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Saturday, leading some chants calling the coronavirus a hoax.
Some,like the president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, have pointed to an email Fauci sent to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2013, which praised her for stamina during the Benghazi hearings, as evidence to question Fauci's authenticity, sharing a post calling him "sketchy."
“There seems to be a concerted effort on the part of Trump supporters to spread misinformation about the virus aggressively,”University of Washington professor Carl Bergstrom, a misinformation expert, told the New York Times. “There is this sense that experts are untrustworthy, and have agendas that aren’t aligned with the people.”