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Prize for Social Courage Honors Fauci Despite Dishonesty

Anthony Fauci is the Director of the NIAID, an advisor to seven presidents, a household name, and arguably the most powerful bureaucrat in American history. Standing on a profound pedestal of authority, Fauci had the trust of the media, elected officials, and millions of Americans. All levels of government considered his statements in their policymaking, and millions changed their entire lifestyles upon his recommendations. The role Fauci has played over the past 15 months won him numerous honors, including the Ivan Allen, Jr., Prize for Social Courage. Despite the controversy which has followed him throughout the pandemic, Anthony Fauci was, at the time, an understandable selection.

Photo by Maria Saporta. Obtained from

However, a recent batch of emails released through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveals that he was not honest with those who trusted him. These emails divulge that Fauci was deceptive with his public statements about the possibility of the virus originating in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, among other high-profile topics. The Wuhan lab is especially important to tracing the origins of the virus because it has participated in gain-of-function research, the practice of genetically engineering diseases to be more infectious and lethal to humans.

On January 31, 2020, Kristian Andersen, a professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps College, informed Fauci about some suspicious characteristics of the viral genome:

The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered.

The next day, Fauci received information about gain-of-function research being conducted on novel coronaviruses in Wuhan from a colleague at the NIAID, Hugh Auchincloss:

The paper you sent me says the experiments were performed before the gain of function pause but have since been reviewed and approved by NIH. Not sure what that means since Emily is sure that no Coronavirus work has gone through the P3 framework. She will try to determine if we have any distant ties to this work abroad.

Despite knowing that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was conducting gain-of-function research on naturally occurring bat coronaviruses, Fauci repeatedly dismissed concerns that the virus had originated in the lab. Most notably, he said the following on May 4, 2020, in an interview with National Geographic:

If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what's out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.

The science tells another story. In February of 2020, researchers reported the presence of a “CGG CGG” nucleotide sequence in the viral DNA. This sequence of nucleotides dramatically increases the transmissibility of the virus, and it does not occur in any naturally occurring viruses in the same phylogenetic class as Covid-19. Adding to the suspicion is the fact that the viral genome already appeared very optimized for human-to-human transmission when it first emerged on the streets of Wuhan. In a Wall Street Journal article, Dr. Richard Muller explains that this is a red flag associated with “accelerated evolution,” which refers to natural evolutionary processes taking place in a laboratory setting using mice whose immune systems have been made to mimic those found in humans. This knowledge was available while Fauci was claiming that there was no scientific evidence to support the theory that the virus was engineered in the lab.

Fauci is responsible for creating large amounts of distrust in scientific institutions. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that trust in the CDC declined by 16 percentage points between April and September of 2020. The CDC is the leading government organization in the fight against the pandemic. Many people exhibit a healthy skepticism of powerful institutions and authority, but the work of scientists, doctors, and researchers should be dependable. As a spokesperson for scientists, doctors, and researchers, Fauci provided a legitimate reason to doubt the integrity of the scientific community. Without public trust in their findings, how can the scientific community innovate and work to improve the human condition?

This issue has severe consequences. Data from the 2009 H1N1 outbreak shows that “that those confident in government are more willing to take the vaccine than are those lacking confidence in government.” Today, we face the exact same scenario. Fauci’s dishonest and manipulative behavior has eroded trust in the institutions facilitating the vaccine’s development and distribution, and lives are being lost while tens of millions of vaccine doses are sitting on shelves due to a lack of willing recipients. However, those who are skeptical of the vaccine have a very legitimate stance. The vaccine lacks the same standard of rigorous long-term testing that has historically been required for new drugs and vaccines. Fauci says the vaccine is safe, but why should anyone believe him given his track record of deception?

There is also the matter of our institution’s reputation. Dishonesty is not honorable, and it is morally wrong to label such poor behavior with a word of praise such as “courage.”

Accordingly, I requested that the committee that awarded Fauci the Ivan Allen, Jr., Prize strip him of the honor. The people that Georgia Tech honors are a statement of the values of the university and its community. Georgia Tech educates scientists and conducts research with an emphasis on integrity. Fauci’s emails prove that he neglected scientific findings and facts when making his policy recommendations. His actions directly contradict the interests of this university. Fauci does not embody the values of Georgia Tech, and he should not be rewarded for it.

Instead of exemplifying Georgia Tech’s motto of “Progress and Service,” Anthony Fauci inhibited the progress of the pandemic response while serving himself. A courageous person does not attempt to manipulate those he or she respects. Fauci’s actions show that he does not respect the American people; his deceitful behavior does not merit our reverence.

Honest opinions should change to reflect newly presented facts. Sometimes the greatest act of courage is admitting one’s mistakes and pursuing rectification. //

Josh Polevoy


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