Anthony Fauci, the 79-year-old director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has said he has learned to “always stick with the science, stay away from politics” over the course of his long career.
The leading immunologist turns 80 on Christmas Eve and has spent a large chunk of his final year as a septuagenarian helping to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic as a member of the White House coronavirus task force. Since the start of the U.S. outbreak, Fauci has testified before Congress and provided public health advice in countless media interviews, in which he elegantly corrected some falsehoods spread by President Donald Trump without directly criticizing the administration .
On Thursday, Fauci was asked in an interview with Chatham House, a U.K. policy institute, how he would like to be remembered as he likely deals with the final significant public health crisis of his career. Fauci has led the NIAID since 1984 and advised six presidents on issues including the HIV outbreak that marked the start of his tenure.
Fauci said: “Let the science and let the evidence guide you. Always stick with the science, stay away from politics. Public health and global health is what I’ve devoted my entire professional career to, with a very strong science base because I’m a scientist.”
His comments come as his influence over the White House’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be waning following pressure from the president’s allies . At the start of the outbreak, he appeared at daily press briefings with the president. But on Monday, he told CNN ‘s Wolf Blitzer that he last spoke to Trump when the president was in hospital for COVID-19 more than a month ago.
His relationship with the administration appeared to sour in the run-up to the election, when Fauci said he felt disappointed that the Trump campaign had used his words out of context in a campaign ad. After Fauci told The Washington Post that Joe Biden was taking the outbreak “seriously from a public health perspective” and Trump “from a different perspective,” White House spokesman Judd Deere accused him of playing politics.
Fauci told Chatham House: “I hope to be remembered as someone who stuck with the science and made contributions through multiple outbreaks from HIV up to the most recent now with COVID.”
Fauci said that when he started in his post he did not want to leave until there were effective countermeasures in place against some of “the great killers.”
He said: “In my mind, in addition to COVID-19, which is still obviously something we’re facing, let’s not forget malaria, let’s not forget tuberculous, let’s not forget these tropical diseases that are not killers but maimers. We have a long way to go in global health and I’m not leaving until we actually get our arms around those.”
Laughing, he added: “So, hang on. You’re going to have me to kick around a lot longer.”
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