The government's top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, is now receiving security protection after becoming the face of the nation's coronavirus response — and a target of some supporters of President Donald Trump.
Health department leaders moved to give Fauci an armed security detail by last weekend after the 79-year-old immunologist received unspecified threats and uninvited attention, although the process took several days, said two individuals with knowledge of the decision.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar had grown concerned about the growing online attacks against Fauci — whose profile has soared since he started regularly flanking Trump at White House coronavirus briefings, where he occasionally corrects the president — and asked the department to conduct a threat assessment. The decision was then conveyed to the Justice Department, which approved the request to deputize security for Fauci.
Fauci declined to comment when asked at Wednesday's press briefing about whether he was receiving security protection, referring questions to the HHS Office of Inspector General, which provides regular security to Azar and other senior officials as needed. "I cannot confirm, at this time, that we are providing such services for Dr. Fauci," said Tesia Williams, an OIG spokesperson.
The Washington Post first reported that Fauci was receiving a security detail.
Some of Trump's most zealous far-right supporters have targeted Fauci online, arguing that he's worked to undermine Trump by publicly disagreeing with the president, and have begun spreading conspiracy theories about Fauci’s role.
Sarah Owermohle contributed to this story.