In a viral tweet that he then shared on Instagram, Dinesh D’Souza claimed that Dr. Anthony Fauci was never critical of the recent protests that swept the nation despite the risk of spreading that such large gatherings pose:
Here we have an example of why fact-checking can be so difficult. D’Souza’s claim is literally true: Fauci has not called for an immediate end to the protests using the exact words in D’Souza’s tweet. But Fauci has spoken out repeatedly—and aggressively—about the public health risks such mass gatherings present.
Fauci has addressed the risk of transmitting coronavirus at protests on several occasions. On June 5, Fauci said in an interview with radio station WTOP that “the reasons for demonstrating are valid, and yet the demonstration itself puts one at an additional risk.” He called protests “the perfect setup [for coronavirus transmission]” and went on to say: “I get very concerned, as do my colleagues in public health, when they see these kinds of crowds.” Fauci told his interviewer that he recognized why people would want to go to demonstrations and that it was important to practice the constitutional right to do so, but that he would advise demonstrators to keep their masks on.
A few days later on June 10, Fauci participated in an interview with ABC News in which he was again asked about the risk of protests spreading coronavirus. He responded:
“The issue of physical separation is important. Masks can help, but it’s masks plus physical separation. And when you get congregations like we saw with the demonstrations, as we have said, myself and other health officials, that’s taking a risk and unfortunately what we’re seeing now is just an example of the kinds of things we were concerned about. So I wouldn’t be surprised that members of the congregation that were there demonstrating could also be infected and many of them will then go back to where they were. … So it’s the kind of things we were concerned about and unfortunately we’re seeing it come true right now.”
While on ABC’s Powerhouse Politics podcast, Fauci reiterated that the “best way that you can avoid—either acquiring or transmitting infection—is to avoid crowded places, to wear a mask whenever you’re outside.” Later in the interview he said:
“From a public health standpoint, you shouldn’t be congregating in that close quarters that you see in demonstrations. But almost everyone understands the need to be able to express your constitutional right, to be able to demonstrate in a peaceful way against something that is really an important social issue. I respect that. However, I have to, as a public health official, say, that is risky when you do that. Now, you can always say the two things that get in the way of the virus are social distancing, or physical distancing, as well as a mask. So what I’m saying, for those that want to avoid an infection, implement both of those. But you know, no matter what I say, and reality has proven that, people are going to go out and demonstrate. So my advice and pleading with them would be, that if you feel that you must do that please make sure that you wear a mask at all times.”
It is true that Fauci did not use the words D’Souza quoted to demand that the demonstrations be disbanded or that the protesters go home. But he has consistently warned about the risks of participation and said that they do increase the odds of spreading coronavirus.
Photograph by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.