Tony Fauci: Margaret Heckler in Drag?

Former President Ronald Reagan (r.) and his HHS Secretary Margaret Heckler.

Is Tony Fauci just Margaret Heckler in drag?

At the only White House photo op this week in the Oval Office— strategically scheduled while the Stock Market was still open, unlike all the other Corona Virus briefings–I watched on TV as Dr. Anthony Fauci, sitting comfortably on a fancy couch and flanked by Dr. Deobrah Birx in her Hermes scarf–commanded the attention of the cameras in the room.

Fauci was pushed forward by his boss, Donald Trump, at precisely the very moment the number of deaths from COVID 19 passed 60,000 Americans in a less than 60 days, the GDP recorded the biggest quarterly plunge since the Great Recession of 2008, and the demand for widespread Corona Virus testing was exploding.   Fauci did a fancy flim-flam, announcing “ the early results of a federal trial (his own, at NIAID) with Remdesivir, an experimental anti-retroviral drug, “ as a potential treatment for COVID 19.

 With a COVID-crazed nation desperate for any shred of good news, Fauci, playing the role of Trump’s fluffer, called the preliminary, non-peer reviewed results of his findings a “very important proof of concept, that has proven a drug can block the virus.”  He added, almost sotto voce, that the new data needed to be further analyzed and subjected to the medical & scientific peer review process.   Fauci’s fandango had Trump’s desired effect upon the stock market, driving the Dow Jones Industrial Averages up over 500 points, overshadowing the gnarly GDP numbers, and knocking the gruesome and growing number of COVID deaths out of the headlines. 

“Some scientists were unsettled by the way in which the findings were reported,” Dr. Steven Nissen, of the Cleveland Clinic who has conducted dozens of clinical trials, told the New York Times.  “ The disclosure of trial results in a political setting before peer review or publication is highly unusual.  Where are the data?  This is too important to be handled in such a sloppy fashion.”

Additionally, as Gina Kolata—a renowned expert on pandemics– Peter Baker and Noah Weiland reported in their Times story, “Remdesivir Shows Modest Benefits in Corona Virus Trial,”  the Fauci announcement upstaged a more thorough, peer-reviewed, data-controlled study which found exactly the opposite result and was published in the highly respected Medical Journal The Lancet on the very same day.

To make matters worse, and to lean on his long-time involvement with HIV/ AIDS, a straight-faced Fauci compared the early results for Rendesivir to the early results for AZT as a first-step treatment for AIDS—without mentioning  AZT’s damage to many patients, along with the impossibility of acquiring the drug treatment for people without money or connections.

Fauci finished by abandoning his scientist’s seriousness, and went full-frontal Trump salesman: “ I can guarantee you, as more people, more companies, more investigators get involved, it is going to get better and better.”

Fauci’s breathless briefing looked familiar.  My mind darted back 36 years, to another day in late April, when, with trumpets blaring, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of HHS, Margaret Heckler, held a press conference at her HHS Offices in Washington, DC to, as Laurie Garrett wrote in  The Coming Plague,  “announce discovery of the virus that caused AIDS.”   Reagan, in the final year of the first term of his Presidency, still had not mentioned the word AIDS, and wouldn’t do so for another 3 years.

Foreshadowing Fauci’s tap-dance for Trump on COVID-19, Heckler “declared victory for her agency’s National Cancer Institute, announcing, ‘Today we add another miracle to the long honor roll of American medicine and science…Today’s discovery represents the triumph of science over a dreadful disease.”  Then Heckler boldly forecast the “development of an AIDS vaccine within five years,” according to The Coming Plague.    That was in 1984; an AIDS vaccine has still not been discovered.

Sean Strub, writing in his book Body Counts, observed that “the (Heckler) press conference seemed contrived, like it was held to assuage the public’s fear.”  

The fear, or the “new wave of AIDS hysteria,” which Strub referred to was, ironically, stirred by Dr. Anthony Fauci , then with the NIH, who published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier in 1983, raising the possibility that “routine close contact, as within a family household, can spread the disease.”

“AIDS takes on an entirely new dimension (and if) the possibility that nonsexual, non-blood borne transmission is possible, the scope of the syndrome is enormous, “ wrote Dr. Fauci.     

Despite the CDC’s sternly rebuffing Fauci’s false findings, the public hysteria, Strub writes,  “pushed the government to do something about AIDS” with Congress authorizing $12 million for AIDS Research.  Fortuitously for Fauci, who started the whole brouhaha, he was appointed to head the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he still heads to this day.

That’s why I found Fauci’s premature announcement in front of his fabulating boss, about another potential magic treatment for COVID-19 (not bleach, disinfectants or an anti-malarial drug) to be so odd, in addition to breaking every scientific protocol, as other researchers have observed.  Fauci had followed this road before.   He watched Margaret Heckler make a fool of herself in front of the world, when she promised an AIDS vaccine by the end of Reagan’s presidency.

Fauci knew what it was like to flack for the fact-denying, magical thinking Reagan Administration that overpromised on treatments for another virus in another epidemic.  To Fauci & Heckler’s credit, at least they didn’t call the quest for an AIDS Vaccine, “Operation Warp Speed,” a deceptive and dangerous way to brand the careful, methodical process of vaccine research, especially with anti-Vaxxers (many of whom are Trump supporters) eager to savage any process that’s less than airtight.   

 Dr. Fauci’s flimsy and suspiciously timed “findings” regarding Remdesivir as a potential treatment for COVID 19, revived the vision of Reagan’s HHS Secretary Maggie Heckler, dressed professionally and proper, casting aside her credibility to declare victory over a virus, newly identified,  that had barely begun to destroy millions of lives. 

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