The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Transcript: The Exit Interview: Anthony S. Fauci

MS. ABUTALEB: Hello, and welcome to Washington Post Live. I’m Yasmeen Abutaleb, a White House reporter here at The Washington Post.

Today I'm delighted to be joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who is stepping down at the end of this month after more than a half century in public service.

Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for joining us today.

DR. FAUCI: Thank you, Yasmeen. Good to be with you.

MS. ABUTALEB: We have a lot to talk about today, but first, we want to hear from you. Tweet us your questions at the handle @PostLive, and we will do our best to work them into the conversation.

So Dr. Fauci, we have a lot to cover today. I'm going to jump right in. Your life changed enormously during the covid‑19 pandemic in no small part because you became a target and you received a number of death threats that continue to this day. What do you think about this crisis compared to others made you be a target?

DR. FAUCI: Well, there are a couple of issues that contributed to that, Yasmeen. It was a combination of the fact that we were dealing with an absolutely unprecedented, devastating pandemic that disrupted virtually every element of society, not only in the United States but throughout the world. That's the first background of the situation.

But the thing that I think triggered it was the profound degree of divisiveness that we found ourselves involved when in this country particularly‑‑we've seen elements of it throughout the world, but the United States itself was much more deeply hit by this degree of divisiveness of an outbreak that took place in an election year in a situation that was controversial to begin with, with regard to the enmity that was seen between political parties that normally could function, hopefully, in a bipartisan way. And what we had was ideologies were spilling over into an agenda or a discussion of what should have been purely public health issues. And my being a person who's a physician, a scientist, and a public health official trying very hard to abide by the data, the facts, and the evidence in alignment with public health principles, that got what I thought was very unusual and, in many respects, unique, at least in our memory, of a pushback purely on the basis of ideological issues, which to me is totally counterproductive when you're trying to adequately address a public health problem. And being the person who's very visible in that regard, I became the target for a number of reasons, including what I just mentioned but also because I was in a position where I was, in many respects, forced because I wanted to maintain my personal and scientific integrity and fulfill my responsibilities to the American public, that I had to disagree publicly with the president of the United States, which I took no great pleasure in, believe me. But it was something that I felt I had to do to be true to myself. That triggered a lot of hostility against me.

MS. ABUTALEB: Well, I want to follow up on that. So, I mean, you've worked with seven presidents over the course of your career, and you've spoken‑‑and you and I have spoken extensively‑‑about just how difficult the relationship with former President Trump became because you had to contradict him publicly, and that played no small role in the threats that you received now. Can you talk a little bit about how that relationship and that experience compared to the rest of your government service with other presidents and what you make of his decision to jump back into the race for president for 2024?

DR. FAUCI: Well, let me start off by denying the second question of yours. [Laughs] I'm not going to get into the politics at all of whether or not former President Trump goes back into running for the president.

But I can address your first question. You know, obviously, Yasmeen, it was very, very different. Each president and the relationship I have with the president is purely in the arena of public health and the crises or at least challenges that the country faces all the way back from the years of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush with the early years of HIV to the Ebola crisis with President Obama and Zika, which was another crisis or semi‑crisis which we faced, to the anthrax attacks during George W. Bush and then the triumph of PEPFAR during George W. Bush's administration. I mean, those are very different circumstances which really dictate the relationship that you have with a particular president.

The one thing that was consistent with everyone that we had was a respect for what I had to tell them with regard to the data, the evidence, and the truth. Sometimes I had to come in with information and facts that were unpleasant about how well we were or not doing in a particular situation, and this was particularly true during the early years of HIV. But it always was met with an acceptance and a respect for what I said, because everyone knew that I was speaking based on science, evidence, and to the best of my ability giving guidance in accordance with good public health principles. That was quite different than what we obviously saw during the Trump administration.

MS. ABUTALEB: Well, we received an impressive number of audience questions for this program, so I'm going to start pulling them in. Our first one is from Angela in California who asks, "How do you deal with all the insults and invective that people throw at you?"

DR. FAUCI: Well, what I've been able to do‑‑and I believe successfully‑‑is to compartmentalize and focus like a laser on what my mission is and what my responsibility is, and my responsibility is to the American public and in some respects indirectly to the rest of the world, because we are such a leader as a country in the arena of public health. And I just don't pay attention to that. I mean, it's not pleasant to have not only insults but actual credible threats on your life and severe harassment of my wife and my children. I mean, that to me is outlandish that that goes on. But I try not to let that distract me--as well as not let distract you too much at all, the other side of the coin, is the adulation that you face. I mean, you've got to just focus on what you're doing, and there are extremes now, which are reflective as we mentioned a moment ago, of the divisiveness in our country.

I mean, you have death threats on the one hand and adulation on the other. That is kind of‑‑kind of a microcosm of what the world is like, at least in our own country.

MS. ABUTALEB: One thing I want to ask you about is covid‑19 was not the first time you came under fire. In the '80s and the '90s, you had HIV/AIDS activists protesting outside your office, staging die‑ins, and another pandemic, you know, the last pandemic the U.S. faced. But these were, of course, people angry for very different reasons. And so I know people have tried to draw comparisons between the two, but I wonder if you could talk a little bit about those two experiences, if there are commonalities and how they differ.

DR. FAUCI: Well, there are some commonalities that you're dealing with a pandemic that is stressing society. With covid, it is all of society. With HIV/AIDS, it was a certain segment of society in certain respects.

And I think when you see people juxtapose on a screen, Yasmeen, the 1980s, the late '80s where you see people demonstrating on the NIH campus, you know, "You're killing us. You're not listening to us. Fauci, why are you, you know, a murderer?" or whatever it is that they're saying, and then you have, on the other hand, on the other side of the split screen‑‑you have people saying, you know, "Fauci, lock him up. Put his head on a spike." They are entirely different things. They are not even remotely related, and I think that's one of the things that I welcome the opportunity, Yasmeen, to clarify because the pushback by the AIDS activist in the late 1980s and some respects spilling over into the 1990s was trying to get the attention of the federal government, who they felt appropriately and correctly were not really fully appreciating the special circumstances that they were in, those who were already living with HIV and those at risk for HIV. They wanted to be a seat at the table, to be able to bring to the attention of the government, the rigidity of the scientific clinical trial process and, even more important, the rigidity of the regulatory process. They were confrontative. They were iconoclastic. They were disruptive, but the purpose of it was to gain our attention.

And since I was such a visible figure, they aimed it at me. So, when you saw the signs up, you know, "You are killing us. What are you doing?" et cetera, that was merely an attention getter, and they got my attention. And once they did, which was pretty quickly they did, I started to listen to exactly what they were saying, and what they were saying was making perfect sense. And I adopted an activist role, because I said let me put myself in their position. Would I be demanding the same things that they were demanding? And the answer was absolutely and more so.

So I became an ally of the activists, and we did something over a period of years which is a model now of what the relationship should be between the advocacy community and authorities in the federal government, in the scientific community, and the regulatory community. Finally, together, we did very good things. Why? Because for the most part, the activists were very correct.

Now turn around and fast forward to the present time when you see the pushback against sound scientific principles that defy the principles of public health, defy scientific evidence, that have an enormous amount of conspiracy theory, distortions of reality, outright untruths, if not lies, that are being spread in the middle of what we mentioned a moment ago, in the middle of a very divisive era in our society. That is, you know, apples and watermelons different between the early years of HIV and what's going on right now.

MS. ABUTALEB: Well, I want to stay on your work in HIV/AIDS. We have an audience question actually that builds on a little bit of what you were saying. This is from Barb who asks, "What did you learn from the HIV/AIDS pandemic that best prepared you for SARS‑CoV‑2?

DR. FAUCI: Well, there are a lot of lessons that we learned from HIV, and one of them, I alluded to a bit just a moment ago, was you've got to understand what's going on at the level of the community. You've got to get the people in the trenches involved. You can't approach something as serious as a historic pandemic in a top‑down fashion. And that's the reason why we had to understand better how, for example, people of color, minority populations were suffering disproportionately from covid in the sense of getting infected more often, and when they did, they had a higher degree and likelihood of progressing to a severe outcome for any of a number of reasons, mostly steeped in the social determinants of health, which go back decades as the cause of that and how we had to take special attention to the needs of the minority community, particularly things that we did in getting them involved in the clinical trials that showed the efficacy of the vaccines and to some extent the efficacies of the therapy. So that was a very, very important lesson that we brought into our response to covid that we learned through hard knocks from our decades of experience with HIV.

MS. ABUTALEB: I want to turn for a moment to some sort of news of the day. We're seeing these unprecedented protests in China right now over the severe zero‑covid policy and the lockdowns that have been imposed throughout the country for going on three years now. What do you make of the protests, and what do you think of China continuing to try to maintain this approach to covid?

DR. FAUCI: Well, again, Yasmeen, I'm not going to get involved in China politics, but I can address some of the principles that you're alluding to.

If you are going to put restrictions on society, there needs to be an end game and a purpose of why you're doing it that is aimed ultimately at opening up society in a safe way to protect your citizens. What we are seeing from the beginning was a very, very stringent restriction and lockdown that never would have been‑‑and certainly should not have been‑‑accepted in the United States, where you actually lock people in their homes and punish them if they come out. If you're going to do something like that, it should be in order to give you time to respond so that you can open up.

And let me give you some examples. If you were in the pre‑vaccine era and you were seeing your hospitals overrun, you were going to want to regroup, get more beds, get more ventilators, get more PPE, so that you can handle the onslaught of cases. Lockdown like that should only be a temporary issue to allow you to do something in a positive way.

In the era of vaccination, you might want to restrict until you can get your population in totality vaccinated, particularly the highly vulnerable elderly individuals, but as it turned out, that's not what happened. The vaccination of the elderly has not been well performed, and the vaccine they have has been not a particularly effective vaccine. So it kind of defies the principle, Yasmeen, that if you're going to do something as draconian as that, do it for a purpose, an end game.

But that's not happening, because at least from what we're hearing, they're not essentially broadly getting all the vulnerable elderly people vaccinated, which is what they should be doing.

MS. ABUTALEB: And my understanding is they're also not allowing citizens to get vaccines other than the Sinovac vaccine, not Pfizer or Moderna or any of the other more effective ones.

DR. FAUCI: Right. Well, that's what I'm hearing, Yasmeen. I haven't verified that, but I'm hearing it from a number of sources, which is unfortunate because it just so happens that the efficacy of the China‑made vaccines are not at the level of the vaccines that have been used in the United States, particularly the mRNA vaccines of Moderna and Pfizer.

MS. ABUTALEB: We have an audience question on this topic. This is from Instagram, from at @NeutralBuoyancy who asks, "What advice would you give the Chinese government on how best to combat the covid‑19 pandemic?"

DR. FAUCI: Well, I sort of alluded to that just a moment ago, but let me repeat it in a more direct way, and that is there's no doubt that if you look at the data‑‑and there is now copious data of the morbidity and mortality of individuals who are unvaccinated versus those who are vaccinated, boosted, and particularly with an updated, upgraded, more recent boost, the differences in morbidity and mortality are profound, that the curves are deaths and hospitalizations in the unvaccinated, deaths and hospitalizations in those who are vaccinated and boosted. And if there was any advice, it's pretty simple, and it's not just coming from me. It's coming from any of a number of people involved in this outbreak‑‑is do whatever you can to get your people vaccinated and boosted with a highly effective vaccine.

MS. ABUTALEB: I'm going to turn to Capitol Hill for a second. You may be stepping down at the end of the year, but House Republicans have said they are going to continue investigations into covid and its origins. You have said that you will assist with that investigation. How high of a priority do you think it is to understand covid's origins? What do we know so far, and how important is it in the understanding of how this pandemic evolved and how to prevent a future one from happening?

DR. FAUCI: I think it's very important, Yasmeen. As you know, there's this debate of whether it's a lab leak from something that was going on in a Chinese lab or a natural occurrence. The data that has been accumulated and published in highly respected peer‑reviewed journals from international group of evolutionary virologists strongly indicate but don't absolutely prove‑‑but strongly indicate that this is a natural occurrence from an animal host, likely a bat into an intermediate host, into a human.

But there's also the possibility‑‑and that's the reason why we all need to keep an open mind‑‑that we don't know precisely what the origin is. It could have been something like studying a virus that they got out of the environment and perhaps having it leaked out into the community. I don't think that's what happened, but my mind is completely open to any possibility.

But, in direct answer to your question, when you know what it is, it helps you to prepare for the next one. For example, if you go back to SARS‑CoV‑1, which evolved in 2002, it was definitively shown that the virus came from a bat to an intermediate host, likely a civet cat, which is brought into the wet markets, very similar to the animals that were brought into the wet markets of Wuhan during the early years in the beginning of the covid outbreak, when we knew that animals in those markets in 2002, you know, 20 years before covid, we knew that that was a dangerous thing to bring those wild animals into a market where they could have interaction with humans.

Knowing that should have triggered us to put really important and definitive restrictions on bringing animals like that into a market, which the Chinese supposedly did, but then we have photographic evidence to indicate that even after the regulations were passed not to bring those wild animals into the market, that they were actually brought in. And they have people who are unbiased who are able to show in photographic evidence that that's the case. So that's an example. When you know what the cause of a similar outbreak is, do whatever you can to prevent it from happening again. If it turns out that it's a lab leak, then you want to do everything you can to have a lot of restrictions and guidelines about the kinds of things that could be done in the lab.

So, in answer to your question, whichever it is, if you know what the etiology and the origin is, it should trigger you to do whatever you can to prevent it from happening again.

MS. ABUTALEB: When you look back on the level of mistrust that was seeded during this pandemic in the U.S. and elsewhere, do you think that there are things that you and other leading public health officials could have or should have done differently? Have you had a moment yet to reflect on moments or decisions that you wish would have gone differently or could have potentially changed the level of trust, or do you feel this‑‑that where we're at now was a bit inevitable?

DR. FAUCI: Yasmeen, to be perfectly honest with you, there is a bit of inevitability about it, but there is always things that you can reflect on, that you could have done better and maybe a bit differently. Certainly, I'm among those people who feel that way.

But one of the things that's problematic and may sort of relate to what you were saying about inevitability is to get the public to understand‑‑and it's a difficult concept‑‑that when you are dealing with an evolving outbreak like an epidemic of an unknown and brand‑new virus, that week to week and month to month, you get more knowledge and more evidence. And when you're in January of 2020, you take what you know from the evidence that's available, and you can make some conclusions, tentative though they may be. You may make some guidelines or recommendations for how to handle the situation, and you express that to the public.

Then, in February, March, April, July, August, the next year, things change, and they absolutely have changed of our understanding of the virus, of its efficiency of transmissibility, the role of aerosol, the role of asymptomatic people in spreading, the effect of the durability of immunity, the evolution of variants. As the months went by from the beginning of 2020 to the current, a lot of things changed. So what could we have done differently? We tried, but I don't think we were very successful of getting the public to appreciate that science is self‑corrective. When a scientist says something based on the data, when a month or a year later, the data change, the scientist is obliged to change what they're saying and what they're recommending based on the new data, which actually bumps off the older data because things have changed. That's how science works.

What happened is that perhaps we could or did not explain it well enough to the people that some of the things that we said based on the data we had in front of us didn't hold true, months or even a year later. You know, I mean, I put it in a simple form, Yasmeen, that it isn't math.

You know, in January of 2022, two plus two equals four. In December of 2022, two plus two still equals four. But SARS‑CoV‑2 in 2020 is not the same SARS‑CoV‑2 in December of 2022, and that's the thing that we just didn't do as good as good a job of explaining that to the people in this country and the world. And I think that led to some of the distrust in science.

MS. ABUTALEB: And staying on this topic for just one more minute, do you think the pandemic would have played out differently had it not emerged in a presidential election year?

DR. FAUCI: That's a tough call, Yasmeen. I think that‑‑and I've said this many times, so this isn't news here‑‑that I feel that the divisiveness that we have in this country was‑‑is unfortunate under any circumstances but is particularly unfortunate when what the country needs to do is pull together and care about each other and follow these very clear public health principles and recognize that the enemy is the virus. It's not each other. And if you look around at some of the things that have gone on in our country, it appears that we are more enemies of each other than we are of the virus, and that just doesn't work if you're trying as a nation to combat a situation where you've already lost over 1 million Americans to this pandemic. It's not the time to be fighting with each other. It's the time to being unified in our response against this devastating outbreak.

MS. ABUTALEB: I'm going to ask you‑‑you know, you've worked with seven presidents. I'm not sure you're going to answer this, but I am curious, and I think lots of others are‑‑

DR. FAUCI: [Laughs]

MS. ABUTALEB: ‑‑if you have a favorite.

DR. FAUCI: No. I obviously can't answer that. I've had wonderful times and great experiences with several of them; in fact, all of them, with one exception. And it's something that I value.

I mean, the presidents we've had have been people of high integrity, and I've enjoyed working them. And we've done some really good things together. I mean, I can think about some of the things that I feel so good about, you know, personally, but also as an American, as an American‑‑is that working with President George W. Bush to be one of the architects of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief‑‑and what you're showing there is President Bush pinning on me the Presidential Medal of Freedom for my role in helping him put together the PEPFAR program, which has now saved approximately 20 million lives‑‑is just something I value and feel so privileged and honored to have had the opportunity to do that. And that's just one of the things that leadership at the level of the presidency can accomplish. And we can say the same thing for several other presidents who have done things under different circumstances.

MS. ABUTALEB: So we actually do have an audience question about presidents. This is from Paige in Texas who asks, "If you could provide one question to a 2024 presidential debate moderator, perhaps that has to do with public health and the importance of scientific inquiry and in support of leadership by a United States president, how would you phrase that question?"

DR. FAUCI: Oh, well, thank you, Paige, for that, for that question.

You know, I guess there are a number of things I would ask, but in tune of what I've been discussing with Yasmeen over the last several minutes, I would ask that person, what would they do to try and bring the country together in an effort against a challenge such as the covid pandemic so that we can work together in a bipartisan way, despite the ideological differences that in many respects are normal and healthy to have differences? How can we prevent those differences from interfering with an adequate and proper response to a pandemic? I would like to hear what the presidential candidate would have to say about that.

MS. ABUTALEB: Yeah. That's a difficult one to answer.

We also got a lot of questions about misinformation, anti‑vaxxers, but I want to start by asking‑‑you know, Twitter recently made this decision since Elon Musk took over the company that it was no longer going to enforce its policy against covid‑19 misinformation. Of course, during the pandemic, Facebook and Twitter had implemented these policies that they would try to prevent or take down misinformation related to vaccines, masks, and the pandemic more broadly. So what do you think the impact of that decision is going to be, that misinformation about the virus and potential treatments and masks and mitigation measures is not going to be taken down or at least curved on this platform anymore?

DR. FAUCI: Well, I'm going to answer it in an unusual way for you, Yasmeen, and I'll explain why. You know, there's this lawsuit against Biden et al., and ed al. is me and a few other people, that we were conspiring to interfere with the free speech in the social media, something that is ridiculous, which I've never got involved in, in trying to pressure any social media for doing anything.

But the one thing I can say, that misinformation in many respects is the enemy of public health. So I'm not going to comment on what Twitter does or does not do, because I've never, ever got involved in that and will not get involved in it, despite lawsuits against it, but clearly, when you look at disinformation and misinformation, that that has got to be an impediment to getting a good public health message across when some of the things that are being spread throughout the country do nothing but harm people. I mean, misinformation and disinformation about vaccine safety and efficacy, if it prevents people from getting vaccinated, that to me is just an affront on public health and dangerous. So I am, full court, against disinformation and misinformation.

How you handle it, as I mentioned, I don't get involved in that, despite the accusations that we do.

MS. ABUTALEB: Well, I'm going to turn to a couple audience questions on this topic. So the first one is from Joanie in Minnesota who asks, "How are we going to combat misinformation specifically regarding vaccinations in a country where after a million‑plus‑‑and counting‑‑deaths from covid‑19 still a third of the country refuses to be vaccinated or follow suggested protocols?"

DR. FAUCI: Yeah, Joanie, a good question.

I have always said‑‑and I still feel this way‑‑apropos of the response I gave to how you counter it is, to me, the best way to counter the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation is to get people with correct information to flood the system with correct information. We've got to be out there. People who you trust, who are trusted messengers, to get out there and put the truth out. It just seems to me‑‑I didn't do a study on it, but from what I'm seeing from my experience is that the people who are spreading misinformation and disinformation seem to be relentless in their pursuit of spreading misinformation, whereas those who have correct information that would be beneficial to society just don't spend all their time spreading misinformation and disinformation. It's almost as if we're outgunned by the people who are spreading disinformation.

So the only thing I could say is to encourage all of us to not be shy about talking about the correct science‑based and evidence‑based information.

MS. ABUTALEB: Well, we have another smart audience question, just building on your last point. This is from Crystal, here in Washington, D.C., who asks, "In your opinion, how likely is it that the political and personal threats and attacks on public health officials will result in those officials becoming more hesitant to declare public health emergencies and/or institute evidence‑based infection control measures such as mask mandates in the future?"

DR. FAUCI: Crystal, I think it goes beyond that. I think it's less to have an official hesitant to make recommendations based on good public health principles. I think the danger is people are not going to get‑‑want to get involved in public health, and we already know that there are so many people who have left the field because of threats and harassments against them.

So I'm concerned, and I encourage my colleagues throughout the country in public health to please stick by your guns and don't leave the field. And the young people who are considering getting involved in the field of science, medicine, and public health, that it's a very important field. It can be very, very gratifying and very fulfilling, and I'm concerned that the pushback you get about threats are going to discourage people from going into these fields, which would really be horrible in that people who are malintent are going to have a negative influence on how we handle public health in this country.

I mean, I'm a visible person, and I get clearly obvious death threats and rather severe and unconscionable harassment of my wife and my children, but I'm not alone. I mean, there are a lot of people you don't know about, who you don't hear about, who are public health officials in the trenches, in the local areas who are also being harassed and threatened, and that is unacceptable. And I would hope that the authorities, the enforcement, the law enforcement authorities are very aggressive in pushing back against threats for public health officials. I would hope that that's the case.

MS. ABUTALEB: So, Dr. Fauci, in our last few minutes, I want to reflect a little bit on your career as a whole and look ahead a little bit. So, first, I want to ask you, is there a moment of your career that you wish you could do over?

DR. FAUCI: [Laughs] You know, Yasmeen, no. And I know they're going to‑‑people are going to respond to that who say, "Well, what does he think? He's perfect?" Absolutely, I'm the first to admit I'm far from perfect, but when you say do over, you know, I really can't see something that I would do completely over. Could I have done it better? Could I have been more clear in what we were doing? Could I have made a better decision? There are many, many things.

I mean, one of the things‑‑and if you want to pick one, I'm just thinking of it now as I'm speaking to you‑‑is that, you know, very early on in the outbreak, one of the dogmas in medicine‑‑when I say outbreak, I mean HIV. In the early years of the outbreak, infectious disease community were very reluctant to give prophylactic, antivirals, or antibiotics to people for fear that they would cause more harm than good or they might actually induce resistance. And, as it turned out, it was very clear that if you give prophylaxis against some of the common infections‑‑Pneumocystis, Cryptococcus, CMV‑‑that you can really prevent people from going on to severe disease and deaths.

We ultimately became very appropriately aggressive in the positive sense in giving people prophylaxis against opportunistic infection. But, if I had to have a do‑over, as you ask, I likely would have pushed that earlier than we did. So that, I think, is an example of a do‑over.

MS. ABUTALEB: That's a very good answer. So to much of the country, you're a hero. To another significant portion of the country, you've become the villain. How do you hope people are going to remember you after your more than 50 years in public service?

DR. FAUCI: Well, you're right. There is a dichotomy in‑‑and I think if you do the numbers, with all due respect to the people who hate me, I think you're outnumbered by the people who feel differently than you do. But that's another story.

The way I look at it, my track record and what I've done, I leave that to be judged by others, but what I hope everyone on both sides of the issue‑‑those who feel I've done a great job and think I'm a hero and those who would rather see me hung publicly‑‑is that the one thing that's true for both of them, that I've given it a hundred percent of my effort, and I've never held back. And I've done that every single day since I stepped into this role. That is a fact. Whether you like me or you don't like me, that is a fact.

MS. ABUTALEB: I want to talk a little bit about your plans after December. We have a question from Instagram, from Britney Fernandez who asks, "What will be your focus now that you are leaving the government?"

DR. FAUCI: Good question, Britney. And I don't know the venue in which I'm going to be operating because, as a public official and a government employee, I'm not allowed to negotiate a position while I'm still in the government. You have to wait till you step down. So I don't know the venue in which I'm going to be operating.

But I can tell you what I'm going to be doing, operating. I look now at my age and given my experience of 54 years as a scientist in the government, 38 years as director of the institute, and having the privilege of advising seven presidents, I have experience, I have judgment, and I believe that I can‑‑by writing, by lecturing, by advising, I can be value added on the basis of my experience to people who are in this field of science, medicine, and public health. And I hope one of the things I accomplish is perhaps inspire younger people, of the younger generation to either get involved in science, medicine, and public health as well as those who are already there, to inspire them to greater heights in what they accomplish. If I can do that in whatever venue I do that, I would feel very good about what I can do in the next few years.

MS. ABUTALEB: And we've got about a minute, a minute and a half left. So I just want to get in this one last audience question from @Prof.Pratt on Instagram who asks, "Is there any chance of an SNL hosting gig in your future?"

DR. FAUCI: [Laughs] Very, very unlikely, despite the fact that it's been kind of fun that "Saturday Night Live" has played around with me multiple times over the last few years. That is not in my playbook right now.

I'm going to be concentrating on what I know how to do, and that's science, medicine, and public health. I'll leave the other stuff to people who know what they're doing.

MS. ABUTALEB: Fair enough.

Well, Dr. Fauci, we're just about out of time, but thank you so much for joining us today. This was a great conversation, and best of luck to you in your last couple of weeks and what lays ahead.

DR. FAUCI: Thank you very much, Yasmeen. It's, as always, been a great pleasure being with you.

MS. ABUTALEB: And thank you so much for joining us today. To see what other programs we have coming up, you can look at our website at

I'm Yasmeen Abutaleb. Thanks so much for joining.

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