WASHINGTON – The National Institutes of Health announced Monday that one of their public affairs officials was about to retire after it was revealed that he was his employer and one of its directors, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, secretly attacked in pseudonymous posts on Twitter and right-wing website RedState.
The official, William B. Crews, worked for and promoted the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, while also overseeing the work of the agency and its director, Dr. Fauci, and her research and health advice wildly and conspiratorially declined under the pseudonym Streiff.
His work was exhibited by The Daily Beast on Monday.
"We have got to the point where it is safe to say that the entire fear of the Wuhan virus was nothing more than a massive scam by 'experts' who were determined to break the mold how the country lives and is being fundamentally changed, perpetrated on the American people, organized and governed, ”Streiff wrote on RedState in June.
In another post late last month he wrote, “If you need a mask to get through the day without wetting yourself, be sure to wear it.” And added, “Just don't expect me to be yours Imagination follow. ”
Mr. Crews' professional background coincides with that of a senior editor at RedState, Streiff, who has volunteered to provide information about his inside role within the N.I.H. The author profile linked to Streiff lists the experience as an Army infantry officer, which matches the experience listed on Mr. Crews' LinkedIn profile. An associated Twitter account repeatedly provided information about the inner workings of the N.I.H. and referred to personal experiences at work there.
User-contributed posts on RedState have not only contributed to Dr. Fauci and other public health officials slandered but also maintained conspiracies over the coronavirus pandemic.
In one article, Dr. Fauci referred to as "mask Nazi". Another warned that people would be forced to "work with the Gestapo on public health" under the fascist governor Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington.
"I can't think of any precedent for these malicious attacks against Dr. Fauci by someone in his own agency," said Joshua M. Sharfstein, professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "It adds a terrible new twist to the pressures faced by many public health officials."
In a Streiff post in August it was falsely stated that there is as much evidence that masks "do" harm as that it helped protect people from the coronavirus, according to the months of N.I.H. and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In the early stages of the March pandemic, Mr Crews described the N.I.A.I.D. as "scaremongering" and predicted the virus would kill about as many people as the seasonal flu. Nearly 200,000 people in the United States have died in the past nine months.
A spokeswoman for the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases said Mr Crews informed the agency Monday morning of his intention to retire after his online identity came to light. However, she declined to say whether an investigation was pending or whether the agency believed Mr. Crews had violated federal ethics regulations.
These regulations generally prohibit federal employees from using unofficial functions of state property or engaging in outside activities while on the job.
It wasn't immediately clear if the posts and tweets believed to have been written by Mr. Crews were written during work hours. However, according to The Daily Beast, many of the posts in question were published at noon during the work week.
A common theme across the posts is that U.S. health officials' leaders have deliberately overridden the dangers of coronavirus as part of a coordinated effort to politically harm President Trump.
Last week, the New York Times reported that the chief of communications at N.I.H.'s parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, also accused federal scientists of using the coronavirus to try to defeat Mr. Trump. That official, Michael R. Caputo, went on vacation Wednesday, and his scientific advisor, Dr. Paul Alexander, left the government.
The Times received emails detailing the months of efforts by Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander set out to cast doubt on federal science and to silence the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Monday's revelation that another public affairs official at the Department of Health and Human Services was clandestinely carrying out similar attacks raised questions about how far efforts to undermine coronavirus science could expand.
These efforts to undermine the goals of federal scientists, privately or anonymously, or to spread misinformation, were due to high-ranking health officials trying to convince the general public to follow even basic recommendations like wearing masks and avoiding crowded spaces.
And as public health officials try to fight back fringe science and viral videos that testify to a major government conspiracy related to the pandemic, they now have to face elements within their own ranks attacking scientists whose embassies they are paid to maintain .
"In this case, misinformation and violent rhetoric came from inside the building," said Dr. Sharpstein.