Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former chief medical adviser to the president, has faced continued scrutiny from conservatives over his advice to the government during the pandemic, even as the day-to-day impact of COVID-19 has slowed.

Fauci recently hit back at Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who suggested that the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases should be prosecuted for actions during the pandemic. Fauci called it “craziness,” adding that Musk was “going off the deep end.”

Now, following a recent in-depth interview in The New York Times, commentators on Twitter claimed that Fauci admitted that mask-wearing, adapted and recommended across the states, was largely ineffective.

Dr. Anthony Fauci tests positive for COVID
On June 15th, it was announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci tested positive for COVID-19 and while many are wishing him a speedy recovery, others celebrate him contracting the virus.POOL/GETTY IMAGES 

The Claim

A tweet by conservative commentator Clay Travis, posted on April 27, 2023, viewed 132,300 times, claimed that: “Dr. Fauci now says masks only work, at best, at 10% efficacy.

“Fauci’s covid lies are all crumbling around him. This should end with Fauci in handcuffs for lying to Congress.”

Travis’ claim here misrepresents what Fauci actually said.

Speaking to The New York Times this week, Fauci was questioned about mask-wearing; journalist David Wallace-Wells cited a study from Bangladesh that examined the efficacy.

“To be clear, I’m not someone who doesn’t think masks work,” Wallace-Wells said. “I think the science and the data show that they do work, but that they aren’t perfect and that at the population level the effect can be somewhat small.

“In what was probably our best study, from Bangladesh, in places where mask use tripled, positive tests were reduced by less than 10 percent.”

Fauci replied that the protection “really does work” when they are “worn religiously” and “well-fitted,” high-quality masks such as a KN95s or N95s.

However, Fauci conceded: “From a broad public-health standpoint, at the population level, masks work at the margins—maybe 10 percent.”

Asked whether the culture-war fights over masking were “worth it”, Fauci said: “I think anything that instigated or intensified the culture wars just made things worse.

“And I have to be honest with you, David, when it comes to masking, I don’t know. But I do know that the culture wars have been really, really tough from a public-health standpoint.”

So, while conceding that as a broad public health policy, mask-wearing might have limited efficacy (which could be a result of masks not being worn properly, not being high enough quality or used in the wrong settings), Fauci did not say that masks, as a protective measure, were only 10 percent effective, as Travis suggested.

Fauci recently hit back at claims that he covered up the true origins of the pandemic, calling them “politically motivated” and alleged that Republican politicians had expressed a desire to “hang” him during their election campaigns.

“It’s no secret that almost all of the incumbent Republican politicians that were running, and those who are running for the first time, had interspersed in their campaigns, you know, ‘fire Fauci,’ ‘indict Fauci,’ ‘hang Fauci,'” he said. “It’s a political thing.”

The Ruling

Needs Context

Needs Context.

The comments Fauci made were taken out of context. When asked to comment about mask efficacy, he said that as a broad policy plan, mask-wearing might have a small range of efficacy.

However, he then clarified that consistent high-quality mask use was an effective tool for preventing infection.