White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci had little patience for claims his messages in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic were being restricted by the Trump administration, a tranche of newly public emails shows.
The more than 3,200 pages of emails, obtained by Buzzfeed News and covering a period between January and June of 2020, are dotted with messages to Fauci from public health experts and ordinary Americans alike asking a variation of the same question: “Have you been muzzled?”
That’s the subject line of a March 1, 2020, email to Fauci from a man named Thomas Murray, who describes himself as a “nuclear/aerospace engineer who subsequently obtained an MPH [Master of Public Health degree] at the University of Washington”.
“The news media is reporting that the White House has muzzled you. Is that true?” asked Murray, who further asked Fauci to “let me know if I should stay silent or become noisy.”
“Please stay silent since I have not been muzzled,” Fauci responded. “I will be on multiple TV shows tomorrow and was on FOX this AM. No one is censoring me.”
In response to a similar inquiry the same day from syndicated columnist Bob Franken, Fauci said: “I have never been given orders to get approval from the VP’s [Mike Pence] people to speak publicly about coronavirus. Ever since I have been doing this since the Reagan administration, whenever a member of the Executive Branch such as me gets invited and goes on National TV such as the Sunday Talk shows, there is always a routine process of clearing it with your department (in this case HHS) who then clears it with the White House. This is routine and has been true for the Reagan, Bush ’41, Clinton, Bush ’43, Obama, and now the Trump administration. That is merely a formality so that they know what is coming out from the executive branch … I have never been muzzled or told that I could not speak out publicly about anything during this administration.”
The following day, Fauci got a message from University of Pittsburgh immunology professor Mark Jay Shlomchik asking whether reports that the White House had blocked Fauci from speaking publicly about the virus without approval was true.
“If it is, I think that — in the interests of public health and the integrity of science in the US — you must not acquiesce but instead resign and speak out,” Shlomchik wrote. “If it is not true, then please refute it and set the record straight.”
“The story is not true,” Fauci responded tersely. “I am not being muzzled or censored.”
Not completely mollified, Shlomchik urged Fauci to make the same statement publicly.
“Your personal integrity is at stake here in the community and the world, and is a proxy for the integrity of science and medicine,” he wrote at one…