WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The infectious diseases expert at the forefront of the U.S. fight against the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday downplayed reports that his personal security was being threatened, saying he felt safe and was focused on doing his job.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has faced growing threats to his safety, and the government will step up his security, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Asked on NBC’s “Today” show if he felt safe, Fauci said, “I do.”
“I’ve chosen this life - I know what it is. There are things about it that sometimes are disturbing,” Fauci said. “But you just focus on the job you have to do and you put all that other stuff aside and try as best as possible not to pay attention to it.”
"We have a really, really very difficult situation ahead of us," he said, referring to the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic that threatens hundreds of thousands here of lives around the world. "All of that other stuff in secondary."
The Justice Department has approved a U.S. Marshals Service recommendation for more than half a dozen special agents to provide protective services to Fauci, a Justice official told ABC News.
Fauci, a strong advocate of emergency measures including stay-at-home orders to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, has become a target for criticism by the far right and online conspiracy theorists, media reports have said, after he corrected several of President Donald Trump’s statements relating to the outbreak.
For many others, the calm, focused health professional has been a steady voice of expertise and reassurance in a time of crisis.
In addition to the threats, the security concerns include “unwelcome communications from fervent admirers,” the Washington Post reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter at the Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services.
In another interview on Thursday, Fauci, who is 79 and has led his agency since 1984, acknowledged some stress.
“I mean, obviously there’s a lot of pressure. I would be foolish to deny that,” he told CBS’ “This Morning.”
“It’s a job to do, and we’ve just got to do it.”
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bernadette Baum