- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2023

A D.C. man delivered a verbal scolding to Dr. Anthony Fauci in a newly revealed video showing the world-famous doctor’s struggles to convince Black residents in the city’s poorest area to get the coronavirus vaccine back in 2021.

The man forced the doctor and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to retreat after their pleas for him to get the shot failed.

“You all’s campaign is about fear. It’s about inciting fear in people,” the man said as Dr. Fauci and the mayor scurried away from the doorstep encounter. “You all attack people with fear. That’s what this pandemic is, it’s a fear.”

The exchange took place in June 2021 and was captured by PBS and released Monday, ahead of a documentary about Dr. Fauci’s legacy that the network is airing Tuesday.

The doctor and the mayor took to the streets of the District’s Ward 8 in June 2021 to try to convince residents of the need to get the vaccine, which had been rolled out in late 2020.

Ward 8 was the slowest to embrace the shot, and Dr. Fauci explained to the camera that it had all the markers of a troubled area, with poor medical care and high rates of HIV and COVID-19.

“They’re sort of the disenfranchised group that we’ve got to reach out to,” he said.

He and the mayor first toured a vaccination site where they did encounter some fans.

“Oh, my God. Dr. Fauci!” exclaimed one masked-up woman getting the shot.

Dr. Fauci addressed a group of people canvassing the neighborhood to drum up interest in vaccines, saying he was aware his own credentials may not be enough to convince residents.

“I’d like to believe people listen to me, but some don’t. But when you have people who are part of the community, you know, the community core, the trusted messengers, those are the ones they listen to,” he said.

He quickly saw that some residents weren’t going to listen to him or Ms. Bowser.

One woman told Dr. Fauci she was waiting until her children could get vaccinated. Ms. Bowser said she should go first, and the woman replied that she feared getting the vaccine would create a risk of transmitting the disease to her children.

“No, no, not at all,” Dr. Fauci said.

Another woman then chimed in: “I heard that it doesn’t cure it, and it doesn’t stop you from getting it.”

Dr. Fauci disputed that: “On the very, very, very rare chance you do get it, even if you’re vaccinated, you don’t even feel sick. It’s like you don’t even know you got infected. It’s very, very good at protecting you.”

Another woman, who said she was 82, also made clear she wasn’t rushing to get the shot.

Dr. Fauci wondered if she was afraid of pain, and she said it was other things.

But the star of the video is the unidentified Black man standing outside his door at the top of his stairs, staring down at the doctor and the mayor.

“The people in America are not settled with the information that’s been given to us,” he said.

He questioned the fast pace of the vaccine’s development, the severity of COVID-19 and the death rates reported by the CDC.

Ms. Bowser settled on a strategy of trying to scold the man.

“If thousands of people like you don’t get vaccinated, you’re going to let this virus continue to percolate in this country,” she said.

“Something like the common flu,” the man said.

Dr. Fauci stepped in to say that the flu killed a few tens of thousands a year, while at that point 15 months into the pandemic the coronavirus had claimed 600,000 lives.

“That’s you all’s number,” the man retorted.

When he expressed suspicions over the incentives the mayor was offering to get people vaccinated — gift cards, iPads and college scholarships — Ms. Bowser retreated.

“I won’t keep you anymore,” she said.

She and Dr. Fauci and their masked entourage walked away to the sound of the man haranguing them.

“It’s a fear, this pandemic. That’s all this pandemic is,” he said.

As of earlier this month, Ward 8 still had by far the lowest vaccination rate in the city.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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