The administration of former President Donald Trump, in an effort to preserve the economy he credited himself with building, frequently rejected even the most basic safety guidelines from Trump's own health experts in the face of the pandemic that's gone on to kill over 500 thousand Americans.
Trump publicly skewered the effectiveness of mask-wearing, dismissed the need for temporary lockdowns, and shared pseudoscientific misinformation about potential treatments for the virus.
This often put Dr. Anthony Fauci—a career public health expert and head of Trump's virus task force—in the unenviable position of publicly contradicting Trump's rosy outlook on the threat posed by the virus to Americans across the country.
The same can be said for Fauci and Trump's Trade Director Peter Navarro, who eagerly endorsed calls to prematurely reopen non-essential businesses across the country.
With Fauci now serving as the top health advisor for President Joe Biden, Navarro appeared on Fox News to blame Fauci for the virus' creation.
Peter Navarro calls COVID-19 the "Fauci Virus" calling Fauci "the father of" the virus and accusing him of allowing… https://t.co/63m4KdhMfv— nikki mccann ramírez (@nikki mccann ramírez)1617148001.0
Navarro told Rachel Campos-Duffy of the conservative Fox News network:
"Fauci's the father of the actual virus. This virus, according to Bob Redfield at the Centers for Disease Control, came from a Wuhan lab ... I call it the Fauci Virus now. If he wants to be the father of something, he's the father of the virus that's killed over half a million Americans."
The claim that the virus emerged from a virology lab in its place of origin—Wuhan, China—has been a pervasive claim among the right since the early days of the pandemic, though the World Health Organization has said that it's "highly unlikely."
Navarro cited former CDC director Robert Redfield as supposed confirmation of the theory. Redfield recently said in a CNN interview that it was his "point of view," but emphasized several times that this was his own speculation, not a confirmation of the theory's validity.
Navarro's comments were met with immediate backlash, with many blaming him for the wave of misinformation regarding the pandemic that's been frequently broadcast from networks like Fox.
This is why your parents have become raving loons who cannot take their eyes off the television. https://t.co/wpVK3Pv1cf— Tom Nichols (@Tom Nichols)1617151803.0
Fox News is literally sucking the sanity out of our society. (How they do it is complicated but involves creating… https://t.co/5VwB0R54TS— David Rothkopf (@David Rothkopf)1617148623.0
What in the mother F is this.... these people, this network, are a danger to society. https://t.co/KP6ar1bcBW— Abau3r (@Abau3r)1617196751.0
Fox News is boomer brain poison https://t.co/b4mezCEomr— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar)1617150345.0
Fox is not a news organization. This is shot like a pro-wrestling promo, it’s completely insane. https://t.co/xHvcDnt5kJ— Jason Wells (@Jason Wells)1617196593.0
People were astounded that, until only recently, Navarro was in a position of power.
Our country was run by dingbats and maniacs like this for four years. It's incredible that they didn't do more dama… https://t.co/fez1redpR1— Seth Cotlar (@Seth Cotlar)1617161208.0
This nut helped run the US government. https://t.co/reAuj6wtSE— David Corn (@David Corn)1617150483.0
Three months ago this insane person was a top member of the covid team https://t.co/44ye56QYk3— Josh Marshall (@Josh Marshall)1617150911.0
GOP Congress voted to overturn the lawful election result so they could keep people like these in power. https://t.co/tI2vgxafuG— Jesse Ferguson (@Jesse Ferguson)1617154835.0
As the United States scrambles to administer as many vaccines as possible, health workers are being met with skepticism and outright refusal thanks to disinformation like Navarro's, which Fox News gleefully amplifies.
If vaccines can't outpace the spread of the virus—which has seen an alarming rise in the past two weeks—the virus will keep mutating and new variants will keep emerging. Unmitigated, it's a near-inevitability a variant will emerge that renders the millions of vaccines delivered in the U.S. ineffective.