While it seems absolutely insane that large demographics of people would politicize a pandemic by turning it into a bipartisan issue geared towards deepening the US political divide between the GOP and DNC, that's exactly what happened. Once a litany of health and safety protocols were being implemented to try and curb the spread of the new disease, people either rejected or embraced them.
Many individuals looked to the President's Chief Medical Advisor and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for answers. It didn't take long for Dr. Fauci to become a figure of ire, which began around the time he was recorded on stage behind Donald Trump, laughing and facepalming at the President's "Deep State Department" comment.
It didn't take long for jokes/memes/media stories to circulate on the internet about Dr. Fauci's supposed "embarrassment" working for Donald Trump. As time progressed and coronavirus cases in the US increased, Fauci ended up becoming a more and more polarizing figure. Some individuals accused him of doing a poor job of managing the US' response to the disease as he switched his stances on mask-wearing within a month.
Initially, he urged Americans not to wear masks and stated that only N95s, which should be reserved for healthcare professionals, should be worn to help stop the spread of the virus. Soon after, lockdown measures and social distancing guidelines were implemented, followed by the reversal of Dr. Fauci's stance on wearing cloth masks.
Many people commended Dr. Fauci's job while also highlighting the fact that Donald Trump early on flouted mask-wearing protocols. This only helped to further a supposed "divide" between Fauci and Trump, and it didn't take long for the President to intimate he was dissatisfied with the job that the doctor was doing and that he would fire him.
Soon after that, Fauci simultaneously became one of the most loved/hated men in America, and in a discussion with the New York Times, he dished out on what his working relationship with Trump was really like.
"Well, it's not that bad, right?"
Dr. Fauci told the outlet that he constantly felt pressured by Trump to try and minimize the severity of COVID-19 once the outbreak of cases precipitously increased in New York. Fauci also said that Trump was prone to taking anecdotal stories as seriously as empirical data: "He would take just as seriously their opinion — based on no data, just anecdote — that something might really be important."
He also stated that he didn't take "any pleasure" contradicting Donald Trump's mitigation of COVID-19's severity, but felt that if he "didn’t speak up, it would be almost tacit approval that what he was saying was OK." It was after he began to "contradict" the President that he noticed he started receiving hate from individuals.
"The people around him, his inner circle, were quite upset that I would dare publicly contradict the president." He also stated that he'd often hear complaints about "contradicting" Trump mostly by economist Peter Navarro.
But the most harrowing part of Dr. Fauci's job heading the COVID-19 response had to do with the death threats he and his family received as early as March 28, 2020.
From people somehow getting the phone number of his family members to receiving "benign" white powders in the mail that he thought possibly could be anthrax or ricin. Fauci did state that while he did contradict Trump because he was asked his opinion, he was never accosted by the President, nor did he really think that he was actually going to be fired and attributed Trump's joke about terminating his position just that, a joke.
"No, he was fine. To his credit, he didn't get upset at all," Fauci said of Trump's working relationship with him. And even though the pressure didn't become great for Dr. Fauci, he said that he never considered quitting once, even when his wife suggested he do so.
Finally, when he was asked if he thought that Donald Trump "cost the country tens or hundreds of thousands of lives?" Dr. Fauci refused to comment, "People always ask that, and … making the direct connection that way, it becomes very damning. I just want to stay away from that. Sorry."