While some right-wing activists have called on President Donald Trump to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, a prominent voice during the COVID-19 pandemic, one far-right conspiracy theory site is telling millions of viewers that being fired is “the nicest thing that could be done to Fauci” and is calling him a traitorous criminal who is “directly responsible” for the development of the coronavirus.
Fauci heads the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has sometimes angered Trump supporters by correcting misinformation dispensed by the president. On April 12, Trump retweeted a call by failed congressional candidate and conspiracy theorist DeAnna Lorraine to “#FireFauci.”
Conspiracy site Next News Network went a step further on April 16, publishing a long interview with Dr. Rashid Buttar who, as Media Matters noted in its report on the video, “proceeded to push multiple falsehoods and conspiracy theories,” including the claim that not a single death had actually been demonstrated to be caused by the COVID-19 virus. Buttar claimed that social distancing guidelines defy “every logical aspect of science and medicine.”
Buttar accused Fauci of violating a government moratorium on a type of “chimeric” research and directing funding toward research that Buttar claims led to the creation of the COVID-19 virus in a North Carolina lab. Host Gary Franchi said that research was then outsourced to China.
Is Fauci directly responsible for this pandemic? Because he maneuvered the money, he maneuvered around the moratorium, kept this chimeric research going in China? Is he directly responsible for not just the pandemic, but also the response that’s killed the economy, put what, 17 to 22 million people out of work? Is Fauci directly responsible?
I’m gonna say this, I think I’ve seen some petitions going around. I know Dr. Shiva said that Fauci should be fired. I think that’s the nicest thing that could be done to Fauci … He’s a criminal. He’s broken the law. He’s going against the government. I mean, to me, that seems like it’s a traitorous thing to do when you—the government has passed a regulation, and he’s at one of the highest levels in the NIH. He’s got a directorship at the NIH. And then he breaks the law. He breaks the moratorium and then funds research against something that could potentially cause harm throughout the entire world. And he’s in collusion with a foreign government to do—I mean, I don’t know. That’s a matter for attorneys to decide.
Buttar then talked about the early days of the HIV crisis, when he claimed Fauci was “pushing the agenda of a drug prophylactically to treat people for a condition that has now been seen to be related to lifestyle, nutritional status, all sorts of other things.” Returning to the nation’s current coronavirus crisis, he charged that there is a “conflict of interest” involved in Fauci pushing for an unproven vaccine while arguing against treating patients with drugs promoted by Trump that have not yet been shown to be safe or effective.
People need to wake up and realize there is a massive criminal component to this. This entire world economy, the whole world economy shutting down, it comes back to one person, in my opinion, and that’s Fauci. Now, there’s other people that are involved with the charade, obviously, but Fauci is the person that they’ve put up in the front, and Fauci is the one who had the ability to stop this.
In 2018, The Guardian identified the Next News Network as “a dubious operation that recycles stories harvested from far-right publications, fake news sites and Russian media outlets.” It reported that Franchi was “once a leading proponent of a conspiracy that claimed the US government was creating concentration camps for its citizens” and noted that YouTube’s algorithms “consistently amplified” the network’s anti-Clinton videos in the run-up to the 2016 election.
Media Matters noted this week that the Next News Network video has “racked up millions of views” in spite of YouTube’s pledge to crack down on misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last October, in a story titled “YouTube Doesn’t Just Welcome ‘Conspiracy Theorists’—It Gives Them Awards,” Forbes associate editor Thomas Brewster noted that YouTube had given Franchi a gold “creator Award” in May. In December, Franchi put out a press release celebrating that Next News Network had surpassed 1 billion views and was approaching 1.3 million subscribers.