Since over 3,000 pages of email correspondence by U.S. health official Anthony Fauci were made public on June 1, there has been a flurry of misleading and false claims about COVID-19 on social media.
This tweet posted on June 2, for example, lists eight such claims that are supposedly based on the newly-released emails. The same claims were mentioned in a live video on Facebook that was viewed 13,000 times on June 3. They were also translated in Spanish in a tweet that was shared 1,300 times on June 7.
All eight claims are not quite accurate.
The first (“Covid was created”) and second (“Hydroxychloroquine is a drug that will cure Covid”) claims have since been debunked by USA Today. The fourth claim (“Face masks do not work”) was debunked by AFP.
The sixth and eighth claims (“Facebook purposefully promoted authoritarian propaganda regarding Covid” and “Fauci knowingly lied to Congress last month”) concern intent that cannot be proven with the content of the emails.
The seventh claim (“We were not given actual numbers of those who died as a result of Covid”) is related to an ongoing assessment of the death toll and Fauci himself said in early May that it could have been undercounted.
In the following section, Annie Lab looks into the third and fifth claims.
Claim 3: ‘There is no such thing as asymptomatic spread’ — False
On multiple occasions Fauci’s email exchanges acknowledge that asymptomatic transmission of the disease was occurring.
In an email dated Feb. 4, 2020, for instance, Fauci made a comment for a story in Science Magazine, stating he had no doubt that asymptomatic transmissions were occurring.
According to the email, his statement was backed by “a highly respected Chinese infectious diseases scientist and health official” who was “convinced that there is asymptomatic infection and that some asymptomatic people are transmitting infection.”
However, an email Fauci later sent to make a typo correction included the wording “… since most transmissions occur from someone who is symptomatic,” and presumably this correction was taken out of context for the false claim.
Raheem J. Kassam, the editor-in-chief of National Pulse, a publication that describes itself as a “news and media publication” in Washington, posted a tweet with a screenshot of the said email and claimed falsely that “…the whole asymptomatic spread thing was a lie.”
There is also another email dated March 1, 2020, in which Fauci wrote “People can transmit even when they are asymptomatic.”
The email record reveals freelance writer Jacqueline Stenson wrote an article for NBC online about asymptomatic infections partially based on the message from the NIAID as well.
Claim 5: ‘No lockdowns were necessary’ — False
Annie Lab could not find any email message in the record that supports the claim about lockdowns being unnecessary.
We have looked through all the emails that mentioned ‘lockdown’ and summarized all their details and content in this table.
One email that might have been the basis of the claim was dated April 12, 2020. It was sent to Fauci by a staff of National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) whose name was redacted.
In the email, the writer compared the statistics of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and China. Part of it reads, “It is highly likely that many such patients died during the lockdown even though I couldn’t confirm the specific case or find any statistics.”
However, this message did not ascribe the death of people solely to the conditions created by the lockdowns in China, but also to other factors such as chronic diseases, lack of effective treatment, and hospital overcapacity.
Nothing in the email suggested that lockdowns were unnecessary.
In another email that was sent to Fauci on April 14, 2020, professor Tengiz Tsertsvadze from Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University described how a national lockdown, along with other infection control measures, controlled the spread of COVID-19 in the country of Georgia.
Fauci replied to Tsertsvadze that he was “pleased to see that Georgia has controlled the outbreak very well.”
Internationally, lockdowns have been regarded as a necessary measure to limit movements and physical interactions as asymptomatic people can still transmit COVID-19. Fauci’s email record includes many messages that describe the importance and necessity of lockdowns and Annie Lab did not find any communication that indicates otherwise.