So welcoming Fauci to her show would have seemed a good opportunity to press perhaps the most preeminent figure on these issues. For Ingraham, though, it didn’t turn out so well.
Perhaps the most glaring problem with her interview with Fauci is that she didn’t even bring up the models that she has repeatedly attacked and offered as evidence of an overzealous response. Nor did she reiterate her past suggestions that Fauci has inappropriately taken over the decision-making process in the federal government.
Here’s what Ingraham has said on that topic before:
Anthony Fauci should be deferring to the President when answering questions about timing of economic reopening.— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) April 12, 2020
What other private matters does Dr. Fauci wish to dictate after this crisis is over? Does he believe there should be civil or criminal penalties for handshaking? Or just social shunning? Where are all the civil libertarians and privacy advocates now?— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) April 9, 2020
All of that was suspiciously absent when given the chance to confront him to his face. Instead, Ingraham offered a series of premises that Fauci quickly shut down.
At one point, she questioned the idea of not fully returning to business as usual until we have a vaccine.
“Dr. Fauci, on the question of a vaccine: We don’t have a vaccine for SARS,” she said, adding: “We don’t have a vaccine for HIV. And life did go on, right?”
Fauci rejected the comparison.
“Well, no, but Laura, this is different,” he said. “HIV/AIDS is entirely different. We don’t have a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, but we have spectacularly effective treatment. People who invariably would have died years ago right now are leading essentially normal lives. SARS is a different story. SARS disappeared.”
He added of her premise: “So, I think it’s a little bit misleading, maybe, to compare what we are going through now with HIV or SARS. They’re really different.”
Watch Dr. Tony Fauci debunk Laura Ingraham’s comparison of HIV treatment to treating #coronavirus— Khary Penebaker (@kharyp) April 17, 2020
“So I think it's a little bit misleading maybe to compare what we are going through now with HIV or SARS. They're really different.” Dr. Fauci https://t.co/D6ub8QKKjS pic.twitter.com/x9GsQ1nd8l
Ingraham then took a page out of President Trump’s old book, suggesting that the virus could soon disappear, like Fauci noted that SARS had. “This could as well, correct?” she asked.
Very likely incorrect, as it turns out. Fauci again pointed her in a different direction on her analogies.
“You know, anything could, Laura. But I have to tell you, the degree of efficiency, of transmissibility of this is really unprecedented in anything that I’ve seen,” he said. “It’s an extraordinarily efficient virus in transmitting from one person to another. Those kinds of viruses don’t just disappear.”
With that dodgy premise dealt with, Ingraham moved on to others.
She noted the vast difference in the rates of infections and deaths on the West Coast versus the East Coast. But rather than spotlighting the most obvious reason for that — the West Coast’s well-documented, more aggressive early response to the situation — she suggested it might actually be because different strains are attacking different portions of the country.
“The numbers are — they don’t really make sense,” she said, adding: “Could there be different viral strains that circulated longer on the West Coast, versus predominantly on the East Coast? The clades, Dr. Fauci, have you looked into that?”
The suggestion was clear: A critic of harsh containment and mitigation measures trying to chalk this up to something besides those measures.
But Fauci, again, wasn’t having it.
“Well, there could be, but they’re not,” he said.
He went on: “I mean, obviously, RNA viruses mutate a lot. There’s no indication whatsoever that it has any function or relevance. But there are good epidemiological possibilities of why there’s such a difference. ... [Early in the outbreak] was at a time when there were so few cases that the people in Washington and in California were able to do effective containment, so they never allowed it to get to the point of needing mitigation.”
At another point, Ingraham welcomed Fauci to take a swing at criticism of the federal response from Joe Biden. Biden had been critical of the new guidelines for reopening the economy that the White House had issued, saying they amounted to a “punt” from Trump to the states.
“‘Punted,’ you ‘punted,’ all of you people working on this,” she said. “And apparently, he’s claiming that you didn’t listen to yourself since you are a scientist.”
The problem was that the clip Ingraham played didn’t mention anything about not listening to scientists on those guidelines. Biden seemed to be referring to Trump saying he had “total authority” to reopen the economy and then saying it was the governors’ calls.
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘I didn’t listen to myself,’ ” Fauci said. “You got to explain that to me, Laura. What does that mean?”
Ingraham tried to salvage the moment and gave Fauci another chance to undercut Trump’s presumptive 2020 opponent.
“Well, he said, he said — well, he said they’re not listening to the scientists. They’re punting, and basically it’s not over until there’s a vaccine,” she said. “So, your response to Biden?”
But rather than go after Biden, Fauci actually credited what he was saying.
“Well, there’s truth to that,” he said. “It’s not going to be over to the point of our being able to not do any mitigation until we have a scientifically sound, safe and effective vaccine.”
It was a great example of how Ingraham repeatedly tried to mine the interview for sound bites that could be used to bolster her ideological arguments about the virus. But, repeatedly, Fauci wasn’t playing ball. And his repeated rejections of her premises reinforced how out-of-sync coverage like Ingraham’s is with the actual experts.