Fact Check-Fauci emails were not ‘leaked’ but obtained by FOIA

Thousands of emails pertaining to National Institutes of Health head Anthony Fauci from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic were not “leaked” – as posts on social media claim – but were accessed via Freedom of Information Act requests.

One Instagram post, with over 1,300 likes, that says the emails were leaked can be seen here .

On June 2, 2021, thousands of emails from January to June 2020 gave readers a glimpse of the government specialist’s world during the early months of the global pandemic (here).

With emails mentioning masks, the pandemic response and the ‘lab-leak theory’ (here), the emails caused commotion online and among voices from the political right (here).

The emails were accessed via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – a mechanism that allows public citizens to request government documents and information ( – by the Washington Post (here), Buzzfeed News (here) and CNN (here).

The process by which they were accessed, however, is far from the definition of a “leak” – or the unauthorized loss or sharing of information.

FOIA has “provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency” since 1967. Often used by journalists, researchers as well as curious citizens, federal agencies in the United States are required to turn over requested information when requested this way, unless it falls under a specific exception (such as national security) (

A YouTube video explaining what FOIA is can be seen here .

Featuring a public application site and a tracking number for each request, FOIAs aim to transparently supply citizens with the information requested.

The post implies “liberal” audiences would not cover or acknowledge the emails. Examples of recent coverage aside from the three outlets mentioned above, however, can be seen here , here , here , here , here .

Fauci addressed some of the emails in a CNN interview on June 3, here .


Misleading. Fauci’s emails were not “leaked” but obtained by a FOIA by various media outlets.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .