Wednesday marked the first time Fauci gave testimony under oath regarding his interactions with major tech companies. However, Fauci forgot key details of the COVID crisis response during deposition.
According to one of the officials who probed Dr. Anthony Fauci on Nov.23, he said he was unable to recall important information regarding his conduct during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Republican attorney generals Jeff Landry of Louisiana and Eric Schmitt of Missouri deposed Anthony Fauci, who had served as the NIAID’s director since 1984 and as President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor.
“It was amazing, literally, that we spent seven hours with Dr. Fauci—this is a man who single-handedly wrecked the U.S. economy based upon ‘the science, follow the science.’ And over the course of seven hours, we discovered that he can’t recall practically anything dealing with his COVID response,” Landry told The Epoch Times after leaving the deposition. “He just said, ‘I can’t recall, I haven’t seen that. And I think we need to put these documents into context,’” Landry added.
“It was extremely troubling to realize that this is a man who advises presidents of the United States and yet couldn’t recall information he put out, information he discussed, press conferences he held dealing with the COVID-19 response,” Landry added later.
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Landry refused to provide additional information regarding the deposition until it was made available to the public, which will take place at a later time. But he added that some of the information might be useful for officials to strengthen their case.
In May, Landry and Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the US government, claiming it had violated people’s First Amendment rights by putting pressure on major tech firms to stifle speech. The assertions were supported by official documents that were produced in response. Trump appointee U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, who is in charge of the lawsuit, recently demanded that Fauci and seven other officials provide sworn testimony regarding their knowledge of the censoring.
Doughty concluded that plaintiffs showed Fauci “has personal knowledge about the issue concerning censorship across social media as it related to COVID-19 and ancillary issues of COVID-19.”
Fauci met the requirements for being a high-ranking official, but the burden of his deposition was overcome by the court’s requirement for information prior to making a decision on a motion for a preliminary injunction, according to Doughty.
Wednesday marked the first time Fauci gave testimony under oath regarding his interactions with major tech companies, including Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook.
Before the deposition, Landry said in a statement, “We all deserve to know how involved Dr. Fauci was in the censorship of the American people during the COVID pandemic; tomorrow, I hope to find out.”
“We’re going to follow the evidence everywhere it goes to get down to exactly what has happened, to get down to the fact that our government used private entities to suppress the speech of Americans,” Landry stated.
Great Barrington Declaration
Another attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, Jenin Younes with the New Civil Liberties Alliance, stated that Fauci claimed he was unconcerned about a document known as the Great Barrington Declaration.
The document, which was drafted in October 2020, urged for rescinding the severe restrictions that had been placed on children and other groups who posed little risk from COVID-19 and for concentrating protection on those who were most at risk. Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff, two of its authors, are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“I have a very busy day job running a six billion dollar institute. I don’t have time to worry about things like the Great Barrington Declaration,” Fauci said, according to Younes.
Fauci, on the other hand, has spoken out several times about the announcement.
Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins, Fauci’s previous employer, both contested the declaration in confidential emails that were later revealed. “There needs to be a quick and devastating published takedown of its premises,” Collins remarked, spurring Fauci to email him a Wired magazine article he claimed “debunks this theory.”
Fauci claimed that the declaration reminded him of AIDS denialism in another missive that was acquired by The Epoch Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Additionally, Fauci discussed the declaration in the open, justifying his criticism before a congressional hearing in May.
“I have come out very strongly publicly against the Great Barrington Declaration,” Fauci wrote to Dr. Deborah Birx in another email.
Some of the depositions were blocked by the government, but not Fauci’s. It recently obtained a ruling preventing the depositions of Rob Flaherty, a deputy assistant to President Biden, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Jen Easterly, and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
Attempts to halt the depositions of former White House press secretary Jen Psaki and FBI agent Elvis Chan have also failed.
Chan is set to respond to questions next week. Psaki is expected to be deposed on December 8.
According to evidence gathered in the prosecution and public remarks made by Chan, he was involved in content moderation discussions with Facebook, LinkedIn, and other major tech companies. While working in the White House, Psaki stated publicly that platforms should do more to combat suspected mis- and disinformation.
Plaintiffs have also already deposed many officials, including Daniel Kimmage, a State Department officer at the Global Engagement Center.
That center collaborated with Easterly’s organization to form the Election Integrity Partnership, a nonprofit partnership that urged social media corporations to restrict speech.
According to records provided by LinkedIn, Kimmage was also in charge of meetings where censorship was addressed and State Department employee Samaruddin Stewart carried out his instructions.
Motion to Dismiss
Earlier Wednesday, the government urged Doughty to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the government used coercion against the companies.
Even if government officials “urged social media companies do more to contain misinformation, any content moderation decisions made by social media companies ultimately ‘rested with’ those companies,” U.S. lawyers said.
“Even emphatic requests or strongly worded urging, see … (President Biden saying failing to take action against misinformation results in ‘killing people’), do not plausibly amount to coercion,” the lawyers added.
Plaintiffs are putting together a rebuttal to the move.
Both parties are also preparing briefs in response to the Fifth Circuit’s ruling to prohibit the Murthy, Easterly, and Flaherty depositions.
The appeals court stated that Doughty had not adequately considered whether alternate methods of collecting the requested information existed, such as deposing lower-level officials or requesting written responses from higher-level authorities.
Doughty directed the plaintiffs to produce a brief by November 29. The government has until the 2nd of December to respond. Plaintiffs have until December 5 to respond to that response.