I've never heard Dr. Anthony Fauci's voicemail greeting, but I'm guessing it goes something like this: 'Yes, I'll come on your program.'
He appears to have an unusual lot of spare time for self-promotional media interviews for someone whose day job is meant to be heading America's scientific and medical struggle against Covid-19.There doesn't seem to be a week that goes by without him appearing on TV or in newspapers and magazines, and his appearances have become increasingly political since the Biden administration took office.
He was everywhere again yesterday, talking about the new Omicron variety.
What he said in these recent interviews should worry every American, not just because of the current Covid danger, but also because of some of the country's top doctor's shamelessly politicized sentiments.
On CBS's Face The Nation, Fauci burst out laughing after being asked about Republican senator Ted Cruz's request for him to be prosecuted over his ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where many believe the coronavirus outbreak began.
'I should be prosecuted?' he chuckled. 'What happened on January 6th, senator?'
The interviewer, Margaret Brennan, then asked if he thought he was being used as a scapegoat to deflect attention from President Trump's culpability over the Capitol riots.
'Of course!' Fauci smirked. You have to be asleep not to figure that one out!'
'Well,' pressed Brennan, 'there are a lot of Republican senators taking aim at this.'
'That's okay,' replied Fauci, 'I'm just gonna do my job. I'm gonna be saving lives, and they are gonna be lying.'
'It seems another degree of risk to play politics around concerns of life and death,' Brennan continued.
'Exactly,' Fauci agreed, his face devoid of self-awareness. That bothers me tremendously because all I want to do is save people's lives.'
Right, and the easiest way to achieve it is to turn half of the country against you by exchanging political points!
When a famous figure starts talking about themselves in the third person, it's usually a warning sign of excessive egomania, and that's exactly what Fauci did.
'Anybody who's looking at this carefully realizes that there's a distinct anti-science flavor to this,' he said. 'If they get up and criticize science, nobody's going to know what they're talking about. But if they get up and really aim their bullets at Tony Fauci — people could recognize there's a person there, so it's easy to criticize. But they're really criticizing science, because I represent science, and that's dangerous.'
Wow. He sounds more like a religious leader chastising non-believers than a scientist attempting to make sense of an epidemic that has experienced more scientific reversals than any other global medical disaster in my lifetime.
The analogy is fitting since Fauci has gotten more self-righteous, fanatical, and preachy as a result of his attacks.
He's now 80 years old and reportedly 'exhausted' after working every day for the previous 20 months. He's displaying indications of a tenacious, irascible resistance to any challenge to his sometimes conflicting assertions, which is causing more harm than good.
The difficulty with Fauci claiming to be the Science is that he has gotten the science so many times incorrect during the epidemic.
When Covid first appeared in China in January 2020, Fauci said the virus was "not a huge threat to the people of the United States" and "not something the residents of the United States should be concerned about right now."
Fauci then said that Covid was less of a problem than the flu, which was proved to be complete rubbish again again.
In subsequent weeks, Fauci repeatedly said the public shouldn't bother buying masks as they were ineffective.
'If you look at the masks that you buy in a drug store,' he said, 'the leakage around that doesn't really do much to protect you.'
He also told 60 Minutes: 'People should not be walking around in masks.'
Three months later, he conceded masks do work, and since then has demanded everyone wear them, though his guidance on when and where people should wear them has changed more often than a chameleon having an acid trip.
Fauci initially opposed President Trump's China travel ban, then later said it had saved lives.
He's also long dismissed the theory that Covid could have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, insisting it had natural origins. Yet now many top scientists believe the lab leak theory is far more likely.
More damagingly for Fauci, it transpired that the Wuhan lab received $600,000 in funding from the NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health and run by Fauci) and emails were revealed showing he was informed early into the pandemic that experts were suspicious of the 'natural origin' theory.
Fauci's links to the lab may be even murkier.
Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, both Republicans, have asked for an investigation into allegations that NIH funds were used to pay dangerous 'gain of function' research to manipulate coronaviruses at the Wuhan facility.
Fauci testified in May that the NIH "has never funded gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology" and "does not do so currently."
During the same hearing, he also stated that there was no way of knowing whether Chinese scientists working at the facility had lied and used U.S. government monies to perform gain of function tests on bat coronaviruses.
'There's no way of guaranteeing that,' Fauci admitted.
Given this response, the gravity of the claims, and the consequences for the whole world, it doesn't seem unreasonable for Fauci to be properly investigated as to exactly what did go down at that Wuhan lab involving US funding.
And his enraged response to any suggestion that he isn't being completely honest about it causes more suspicion than it dispels.
Other Fauci pandemic flip-flops include saying he doesn't believe in federal vaccine mandates before recently endorsing some, and warning Americans not to gather for Christmas in October before making an immediate U-turn after his remarks sparked outrage and telling them to have a "good normal Christmas."
Fauci's star has risen in tandem with his inconsistent media appearances.
The New York Times reported that his likeness is now on 'socks, coffee mugs, prayer books, candles and cupcakes' - and his fans tried to nominate him as People magazine's 2020 Sexiest Man Alive.
There's even been a movie about him entitled 'Fauci' like he's some kind of one-name superstar brand like Oprah or Adele.
It's hard not to conclude that all the attention's gone to his scholarly head.
Fauci appears on the cover of InStyle celebrity magazine in July 2020, with the pandemic's initial wave barely finished, appearing like a Hollywood studio executive with enormous dark sunglasses by a pool.
In the subsequent interview, he agreed that urging people not to wear masks was inappropriate, but that he did it because there was a mask scarcity and he was worried that health personnel wouldn't have enough.
This isn't the first time he's lied to the public.
'When polls suggested just about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was suggesting herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,' he told the New York Times in April 2021. I thought, 'I can move this up a bit,' so I went to 80, 85.' Then, when subsequent studies suggested 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, 'I can nudge this up a bit,' so I went to 80, 85.'
How can Americans trust him in this moment when he admits to purposefully manipulating them like this?
To be clear, I do not believe Dr. Anthony Fauci is a horrible person.
He is undeniably a brilliant scientist who has dedicated his life to serving his country for decades.
However, in this situation, his ego has risen to hazardous heights, and his demands that Republican senators be prosecuted showed a political prejudice that has no place in the job he holds.
Bottom line: if you want the American people to trust you, it's not a good idea to accuse elected representatives of half the country of being lying crooks, however much you've been provoked.
With his arrogant partisan performances this weekend, Fauci's laid bare the inherent weakness of his obsession with going on TV.
The more he talks, the less many Americans either like or believe him.
They just see a narcissistic blow-hard who likes the sound of his own voice and constantly changes his mind.
We all saw the damage that Trump's gigantic ego did to public trust about Covid, with his absurd statements about things like injecting yourself with bleach to defeat it.
In a way, Fauci's ego is just as dangerous because when he says he IS the Science, he implies every word he says is gospel.
But as we know, when it comes to facts about Covid, the good doctor's proven himself to be extremely fallible.
And the more he contradicts himself on TV, the more he erodes public trust.
If, as he insists, his only interest is in saving lives, then it's time Anthony Fauci put his ego away, stayed off TV and shut the f*ck up.