White House coronavirus adviser Anthony Fauci—the government health bureaucrat at the center of the federal response to COVID-19 for the last almost three years—announced Monday that he is retiring.
Fauci will step down from his position as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in December, though he plans to remain an active and engaged public spokesperson. He will "devote himself to traveling, writing and encouraging young people to enter government service," according to Politico.
Even after he exits federal employment, Fauci will still earn a large salary, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. He is currently the highest-paid federal official, making more money than the president, military generals, and even Cabinet officials. His salary in 2020 was $434,000, though he likely made more in 2021 and 2022. According to Open the Books, an oversight and transparency organization, Fauci will be entitled to a pension that yields roughly 80 percent of his salary, so at least $350,000 per year.
Of course, Fauci will be able to make much more money than that. He will surely write books and give speeches. Indeed, the doctor is well-positioned to capitalize on his newfound fame as a hero to Team Blue. No public official, not even President Joe Biden himself, personifies the U.S. government's pandemic approach quite like Fauci, who quite deliberately positioned himself as the avatar of correct COVID-19 behavior. Fauci even said that critics who undermined him were attacking science itself.
These critics have grown more numerous over the course of the pandemic as Fauci's miscalculations became more evident. He has confessed to telling nobles lies—to giving the public information he thought was wrong in order to serve some other goal. He downplayed the effectiveness of masks, purportedly out of concern that there wouldn't be enough of them for hospitals. He also told the public that the herd immunity threshold was lower than his actual mental estimation; in the end, neither figure was accurate, since COVID-19 is able to evade both infection-acquired and immunity-acquired protection.
Fauci became a passionate advocate of mask-wearing, also pressing the public to engage in all kinds of social distancing measures. When criticized for supporting lockdowns, mask mandates, and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts, he has claimed that he only offered guidance, and did not personally authorize the relevant government orders. Many municipalities never felt like they had any choice to disregard missives from federal health officials; local authorities that did chart alternative courses were derided as science-deniers and practitioners of human sacrifice by Fauci sycophants in the media.
When I interviewed Fauci in July, he admitted to making just one mistake: He said that if he could repeat the COVID-19 pandemic, he would recommend lockdowns, mask mandates, and social distancing measures that were "much, much more stringent." Some people might take note of the dwindling evidence that government mandates led to vastly preferable pandemic outcomes and wonder whether investing a massive bureaucracy with the power to bully millions of people into social isolation, unemployment, and juvenile delinquency was worth it; not Fauci, though. If he could do it all again, the bullying would only increase.
Fauci is also notable for being the foremost public advocate of gain-of-function research, and has steadfastly defended the U.S. government's decision to fund scientific projects that seek to make viruses more deadly and more contagious within laboratory settings. While critics of such research are worried that unsafe lab conditions could result in a scenario where manipulated viruses escape into the world—some people suspect this is exactly what happened with COVID-19—Fauci has mostly responded by equivocating on the literal definition of gain-of-function.
"People use that terminology, gain-of-function, in a way that is not applicable in so many ways to what's being done," said Fauci in his interview with me. "We put guard rails up, and there have been very clear guard rails on what can and cannot be done."
One politician who is not satisfied with Fauci's comments on gain-of-function research is Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), who has clashed with Fauci during congressional hearings throughout the pandemic. Paul said Monday that Fauci's retirement "will not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic."
"He will be asked to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the lab leak," said Paul.
While Fauci was long associated with the view that public health policy should be left to the experts, he has increasingly begun to weigh in on all sorts of political issues. Once he is no longer constrained by his role inside the U.S. health apparatus, it's likely that Fauci will become even more vocal. Don't expect him to stick to the science.