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Tipsheet

Fauci Announces When He's Stepping Down and the Timing Is Raising Eyebrows

Greg Nash/Pool via AP

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the U.S. response to COVID-19 and a leading reason for waning trust in public health officials among Americans, will now apparently resign his post as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases (NIAID) in December. 

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The timing for Fauci's departure from official duties is awfully convenient after Republicans pledged to hold the Biden administration and public health officials for the decisions that led up to the COVID-19 pandemic — including U.S. funding and involvement in gain of function research — and how the government responded to the virus.

Fauci, now 81, has been employed at taxpayer expense for more than 50 years since he started at the National Institutes of Health at the age of 27 in 1968. 

In a statement posted Monday morning on the NIAID website, Fauci explained his decision:

I am announcing today that I will be stepping down from the positions of Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation, as well as the position of Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden. I will be leaving these positions in December of this year to pursue the next chapter of my career.

It has been the honor of a lifetime to have led the NIAID, an extraordinary institution, for so many years and through so many scientific and public health challenges. I am very proud of our many accomplishments. I have worked with – and learned from – countless talented and dedicated people in my own laboratory, at NIAID, at NIH and beyond. To them I express my abiding respect and gratitude.

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And while Fauci will no longer be issuing medical advice and guidance as a federal official, he's not planning on fading into the background, as his statement continues:

While I am moving on from my current positions, I am not retiring. After more than 50 years of government service, I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field. I want to use what I have learned as NIAID Director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats.

Over the coming months, I will continue to put my full effort, passion and commitment into my current responsibilities, as well as help prepare the Institute for a leadership transition. NIH is served by some of the most talented scientists in the world, and I have no doubt that I am leaving this work in very capable hands.  

President Joe Biden — who is still on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware — issued a statement praising his advisor:

During my time as Vice President, I worked closely with Dr. Anthony Fauci on the United States' response to Zika and Ebola. I came to know him as a dedicated public servant, and a steady hand with wisdom and insight honed over decades at the forefront of some of our most dangerous and challenging public health crises. When it came time to build a team to lead our COVID-19 response - in fact, in one of my first calls as President-elect - I immediately asked Dr. Fauci to extend his service as my Chief Medical Advisor to deal with the COVID-19 crisis our nation faced. In that role, I've been able to call him at any hour of the day for his advice as we've tackled this one-in-a-generation pandemic. His commitment to the work is unwavering, and he does it with an unparalleled spirit, energy, and scientific integrity.

[...]

Because of Dr. Fauci's many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved. As he leaves his position in the U.S. Government, I know the American people and the entire world will continue to benefit from Dr. Fauci's expertise in whatever he does next. Whether you've met his personally or not, he has touched all Americans' lives with his work. I extend my deepest thanks for his public service. The United States of America is stronger, more resilient, and healthier because of him.

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The timing of Fauci's departure from federal office — one that was teased and then somewhat rescinded earlier this summer — shouldn't be discounted. In January, Republicans are expected to take the majority in at least the House of Representatives, at which point they will have oversight power once again to probe the activities of the Biden administration vis a vis a number of issues on Americans' minds — including how the pandemic was handled.

Republicans responded by pointing out the importance of holding Fauci accountable for his handling of COVID-19 even after he steps down from his official government position — among them was Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN):

This is a developing story and may be updated.

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