Although both men are trying to curb the tension – “Good job,” Trump praised the doctor during the White House briefing on Tuesday – the president is increasingly pushing for medical consensus. He has found support from a chorus of conservative commentators who have enjoyed his promises to get the US economy back on track as well as his decision to tout possible coronavirus treatments not yet approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“The president was right, and frankly, Fauci was wrong,”
In addition to television for the first time, however, the violation of expert guides driven by some conservative and libertarian voices goes longer – not only to prove Fauci’s fault but to paint him as an agent for the “deep state” that Trump has promised to remove . The smear campaign that is rooting online and laying the groundwork for Trump to cast experts on his own Coronavirus working group relies centrally on the idea that there is no expertise that goes beyond partisanship, and that everyone has an agenda.
Fauci, an immunologist who graduated first in his class from Cornell’s medical school, has been head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. Between 1983 and 2002, he was the 13th most cited researcher among 2.5 million to 3 millions of authors worldwide and across all disciplines that publish in scientific journals, according to the Institute for Scientific Information.
Peter Barry Chowka, whose Twitter bio boasts he has been retweeted by the president, recently referred to Fauci, who has advised several presidents for both parties, as a “deep-state Hillary Clinton-loving stooge.” Trump has not taken these attacks to his own Twitter feed, but he has surfaced past bits of Chowka, including praise for Sean Hannity of Fox News.
And the fake caricature of Fauci has been embraced in some of the most promising pro-Trump corners on the Internet – places that seem far from mainstream discourse until they end up in presidential tweets or in a monologue on Fox.
“Cross-pollination” between the edge websites and more credible conservative stores occurs on news aggregates like the Drudge Report, said Carl Cameron, who spent more than two decades as a reporter for Fox News before leaving 2017.
“These attacks seem to get the attention of the hosts at Fox,” he said.
The Pew Research Center has already documented a remarkable divergence in views on the coronavirus outbreak based on news consumption. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans who turn to sources that cater to right-wing audiences said news outlets have greatly exaggerated the pandemic, while 42 percent of Republicans who do not follow such sources said the same.
The attempt to discredit Fauci is based on a resource for which Trump has confessed his “love” – WikiLeaks. Among the emails hacked by Russian agents and released by the anti-secret organization in 2016 was a message Fauci sent in 2013 to one of Clinton’s top aides, Cheryl Mills. He praised the Secretary of State’s “endurance and capacity” during her testimony before the Congressional Committee that investigated the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
At the end of last week, the right-hand site Gateway Pundit quoted the email saying it came as “no surprise” because the doctor also encouraged states to adopt restrictive measures that “crashed their economies” and played up hopes for possible coronavirus treatments. Jim Hoft, the site editor, published additional articles that questioned Faucy’s attitude toward former health aids and praised him for his “disrespectful interview that undermines President Trump.”
In an email, Hoft said: “I have no problem sharing more information about the doctor.”
The same hacked email was the centerpiece of Chowka’s piece, which appeared over the weekend on the conservative blog American Thinker.
“So Fauci is a typical, deeply embedded administrative government hack that can be expected to be the successor to his political leaders like Mrs. Clinton,” Chowka wrote, will accuse the infectious disease expert of contradicting and undermining Trump.
The tensions between the president and the doctor prompted Fauci, in a radio interview on Tuesday, to say that “that it is not helpful is that it is not helpful.” Trump also took steps to present a united front, saying their relationship has been “very good.”
Followers of American Thinker have not received the message. Chowka’s work has generated almost 20,000 interactions on Facebook alone – more than the typical well-performing story in mainstream media. It has gained special traction in Facebook groups devoted to Fox News personalities, suggesting an overlapping audience, as well as in state-specific groups, such as Maine for Trump 2020 and New York for Trump. In a group for Massachusetts-based supporters of the president, one user wrote, “Never liked or trusted this person.”
Separately, a meme has spread in pro-Trump groups showing a picture of Fauci with his arm around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) And the question, “Do you look reliable to you?”
The attacks have spread to other right-wing locations, where Fauci is accused of trying to turn the United States into “a police state like China to stop coronavirus.”
Some of the most prominent conservative influencers, including Tom Fitton by Judicial Watch and Bill Mitchell of “YourVoice America” has reinforced the conspiracy theories for its hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter. Both figures have been retweeted by President Fitton as many as 100 times.
Meanwhile, at least two congressional candidates have participated in the smear campaign. It is also a very active account on Twitter that has been featured by One America News Network (OANN), a right-wing channel favored by the president who was featured in the White House Information Room 2017. Account, which uses the name Greg Rubini, distorted comments from 2017 from Fauci who warned that the Trump administration would face infectious disease challenges to claim that the doctor “did” and “funded” the new virus.
Last week, spreading unsubstantiated claims about the origin of the virus, Chanel quoted Rion, an OANN reporter and former political illustrator for the “anti-left caucus” who accused the news media of spreading “Chinese Communist Party Stories,” “Greg Rubini, a citizen investigator and a supervised source among a certain set in DC’s intelligence community. “
The claims do not have purchases from the Republican mainstream. But trying to pair them has only illustrated their reach.
Over the weekend, Matt Whitlock, senior adviser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote on Twitter: “Shouldn’t have to be said, but I personally couldn’t care less about Dr. Fauci said nice things to say about Hillary Clinton. “
“The politicization of public health” means that much is said, according to Robert Faris, director of research at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.
“Having Trump and Fauci on the same public stage at the same time is an unsustainable position for right-wing media,” he said. “Something has to give, and I don’t know what it is.”
The most reliable avenues that these outlets have for mainstream exposure, Faris said, is to put their talking points in Fox News coverage or get direct attention from the White House assistants.
“They are both likely, but unfortunately we don’t seem to be there yet,” he added.