KEY POINTS

  • Dr. Fauci has been sent unspecified threats, had unusual encounters with fans
  • HHS chief Alex Azar assigned a security detail to Fauci out of caution
  • Fauci has been targeted by conservatives over his clashes with Trump

Dr. Anthony Fauci has emerged as a top figure in the government’s coronavirus pandemic response as one of the foremost disease experts in the nation. As is often the case with public figures, Fauci has found himself increasingly the recipient of alarming threats – and oddly friendly encounters from admirers – leading him to expand his personal security out of precaution.

According to insiders who spoke with the Washington Post, Fauci was recently assigned a security detail after Housing and Human Services (HHS) head Alex Azar expressed concern about the doctor’s safety. While the nature of the threats against Fauci was not disclosed, he has had odd encounters with fans in public, including one instance when a man asked him to sign a baseball.

Fauci has developed a reputation for providing a levelheaded counterpoint to President Donald Trump’s sometimes terse and controversial remarks about the crisis. He hasn’t shied away from sharing the stark realities of the coronavirus pandemic, raising the alarm about how it should be addressed. At times, this has lead Fauci to contradict the president, earning him the wrath of some Trump supporters.

The U.S. Marshals Service has reportedly sought to deputize HHS agents to provide protection for Fauci at Azar’s request.

During a recent press conference, Fauci was asked about his security detail but he declined to comment. Trump, however, said that Fauci “doesn’t need security. Everybody loves him.”

Although Fauci has been elevated to something of a celebrity for many Americans, conservative pundits and Trump supporters have repeatedly taken aim at the doctor for, among other things, pushing back on Trump’s plans to end social distancing guidelines by Easter (Trump has since backed down and agreed to extend the guidelines until the end of April). At the time, Fauci criticized the plan, telling the public that the coronavirus won’t adhere to an arbitrary schedule.

That clash, and others, have spurred a variety of smear campaigns against Fauci by Trump’s most fervent supporters, with some going so far as to accuse him of being a part of the so-called “deep state” being led by Hillary Clinton. The “deep state” is a right-wing conspiracy theory that purports that the government is, in reality, being controlled by a cabal of left-wing individuals.

Fauci has also been criticized over his grim predictions about the possible coronavirus death toll in the United States, with conservatives accusing him of trying to cause market panic in order to tank the economy and jeopardize Trump’s reelection campaign.

Anthony Fauci Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies about the measles outbreak in the United States before a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington Feb. 3, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/JIM BOURG