Dr. Fauci to Retire by End of Biden’s Term

Dr. Anthony Fauci will retire as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases by the end of President Joe Biden’s term after nearly four decades in the role, he told Politico.

Fauci, 81, did not give a specific date for his retirement in the wide-ranging interview, but said Biden will be the last president he serves as NIAID director after working under every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan.

He denied that the possibility of a Republican-controlled House or Senate next year would play a role in his retirement decision, saying, “They’re going to try and come after me anyway.”

Fauci said he has picked “the best people in the country, if not the world, who will continue my vision” after he leaves the NIAID, he told Politico.

“We’re in a pattern now. If somebody says, ‘You’ll leave when we don’t have Covid anymore,’ then I will be 105. I think we’re going to be living with this,” Fauci told Politico when asked if a sense of obligation kept him in his role.

Fauci was first appointed NIAID director in 1984, amid the AIDS crisis, which he had began to study soon after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first case in 1981. Fauci and the medical establishment faced pushback from activists who said the NIAID did not do enough to address the infections that were killing HIV/AIDS patients throughout the 1980s, as well as for exaggerating the risk that contracting the infection posed for most heterosexual Americans. Fauci again became a household name in 2020 with the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic, during which he developed a contentious relationship with former President Donald Trump. Fauci played a key role in Trump’s news briefings and on political TV shows during the early part of the pandemic, and then became a target for Republican lawmakers for what they characterized as “moving the goalposts” in terms of ending pandemic restrictions like lockdowns, mandatory masking and vaccine requirements. Fauci also became the center of conspiracy theories, and he and his family have faced death threats. After Biden was elected president in 2020, he appointed Fauci as his chief medical advisor.

Dr. Fauci said Trump railed against him for making pessimistic statements about the direction in which the country was heading when new infections were increasing. “The president would call me up and say, ‘Hey, why aren’t you more positive? You’ve got to take a positive attitude. Why are you so negativistic? Be more positive,’” Fauci told the New York Times last year. Trump, who aimed to downplay the virus’ severity, called Fauci “a disaster” in 2020 and said he would fire him if it wouldn’t attract so much negative press. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also traded barbs with Fauci on the Senate floor during hearings and in television appearances over the source of the Covid-19 outbreak and masking.

Fauci accepted the NIAID director job on the condition that he could continue his research and clinical practice. “My career and my identity has really been defined by HIV,” Fauci told The Guardian in December 2020.