Dr. Anthony Fauci has risen to national prominence this year for his position on the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, and when the Washington Nationals squared off against the New York Yankees on Thursday for the belated start to the baseball season, Fauci was invited to throw out the first pitch. Although the 79-year-old physician struggled to pitch the ball with any accuracy, it was his behavior after leaving the mound that really raised eyebrows.
As Breitbart reported, Fauci was subsequently photographed sitting in the empty stadium next to his wife and an unidentified man. What’s more, the face mask that he wore while throwing the pitch was pulled down below his chin.
That’s not how it works
Given that Fauci’s recommendations played a major role in face mask requirements and the promulgation of social distancing across much of the country, the image brought scorn from social media users.
“And there’s Dr. Anthony Fauci showing us all he knows exactly how well masks work!” former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson tweeted on Thursday. “Thanks for the lesson, doc.”
And there’s Dr. Anthony Fauci showing us all he knows exactly how well masks work! Thanks for the lesson, doc. pic.twitter.com/jdHPzq5HfB
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) July 24, 2020
It’s also not clear whether the man seated to the doctor’s left resides within the Fauci household. If he does not, then both he and Fauci were in violation of social distancing guidelines.
Mixed martial artist Jake Shields took note of that incongruity when he tweeted, “Good thing Fauci wears his mask and stays 6 feet apart.”
Fauci says he “was totally dehydrated”
For his part, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director seemed perturbed when asked about the incident during an interview on “Fox Friday.”
“I think this is sort of mischievous with this thing going around,” Fauci said regarding the online criticism that he had been receiving. He also explained that the man seen next to him was “a very close friend of mine.”
“I had my mask around my chin, I had taken it down, I was totally dehydrated, and I was drinking water trying to rehydrate myself,” he said. “To pull it down to take some sips of water and put it back up again, I guess if people want to make something about that, they can. But to me, I think that’s just mischievous.”
Yet despite Fauci’s claim that he was about to take a drink, the picture appears to show an electronic device in his hands rather than a water bottle.
While Dr. Fauci advised against mask-wearing in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, he has since changed his position to insisting that people wear masks to stop the spread of the virus. Earlier in July, he said that local leaders “should be as forceful as possible” in getting citizens to wear masks.