Fauci’s 2020 Election Interview a “Close Call” on Hatch Act Violation

“OSC generally advises employees that it is best not to discuss candidates for partisan political office when speaking in their official capacity”

Today, federal watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust revealed the results of an inquiry by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) into statements made by Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Dr. Anthony Fauci leading up to the 2020 Presidential election. OSC’s determination was reached in response to PPT’s Hatch Act complaint against Dr. Fauci filed in June 2021.   

In PPT’s complaint, the watchdog highlighted what appeared to be impermissible political activity by Dr. Fauci during a Washington Post interview published on October 31, 2020. Dr. Fauci made statements criticizing President Donald Trump’s handling of COVID-19 at the time and praising then-candidate Joe Biden’s approach, despite characterizing similar comments as “political” in another venue mere days earlier.

In its letter dated January 3rd, OSC noted that the statements came just days before the 2020 election and stated that it “generally advises employees that it is best not to discuss candidates for partisan political office when speaking in their official capacity.” While ultimately finding no technical violation, the OSC’s Deputy Chief conceded that the Washington Post author “may have written it from a particular perspective and tried to use Dr. Fauci’s words to make a political point.”

“The highest-paid employee in the federal government, and one of the most influential public voices, should be held to the highest standards of conduct,” said Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “Unfortunately, as the Office of Special Counsel noted, Dr. Fauci disregarded its best practices around the Hatch Act and enabled his official position to be used ‘to make a political point’ even if his motives were unclear. We respect OSC’s determination that this was a ‘close call’ but believe the American public deserves more from officials such as Dr. Fauci.”

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