Trump’s attack was not particularly pointed compared to the others that have come Fauci’s way in recent days.
An analysis from GMF Digital at the German Marshall Fund provided to POLITICO showed that the online attacks on Fauci have grown more personal and egregious, with claims that he is “corrupt, a war criminal, deserves to go to prison, or is responsible for child abuse circulating on social media.” GMF Digital found four “misleading” themes across social media including that Fauci lied about masks and other public health measures. The organization found that on Facebook, the top posts about Fauci emanated from Paul as well as a host of conservatives, including Ben Shapiro, Donald Trump Jr., Steven Crowder, Dan Bongino and Newsmax.
According to data from Bully Pulpit Interactive, Republicans or conservative interests over the last month have spent $300,000 on Facebook ads targeting Fauci.
Nearly seven years ago, during the heart of the Ebola crisis, the Obama administration’s internal motto for handling challenging stretches was “PTFOTV”: Put Tony Fauci on TV. No one had more credibility with the public or was a better spokesperson, said Ron Klain, who acted as Ebola czar under Obama and now serves as Biden’s chief of staff.
But in an ever-polarized nation, Fauci too has fallen victim to tribalism. His advocacy for mask wearing and social distancing — in the face of Trump’s opposition — was met by vocal detractors across the country, who launched anti-mask protests and demanded the economy reopen. His conservative predictions about the pace of vaccine development and the timeline for reopening the country led to criticism that his expertise had been dramatically overstated.
But the attacks on Fauci have increasingly veered into the conspiratorial, experts say. This week, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson questioned why one of the emails involving Fauci was redacted, then speculated that it could mean Fauci was under investigation.
“Republicans employed the same attempts to divide and distract the American people in 2020. We know that these strategies don't work,” said Aneesa McMillan, deputy executive director of Priorities USA, a top Democratic super PAC. “The American people are looking for a concrete policy agenda that speaks to their priorities and improves their communities. The GOP has none of that — so they turn to fear-mongering and misinformation.