Did Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), admit to wearing protective masks only for show? No, that's not true: In a televised interview, Fauci stated that because he is fully vaccinated, he feels comfortable in indoor settings without a mask. He said he wore masks indoors to avoid "mixed signals" after being fully vaccinated because the CDC had not yet made a widespread public health recommendation about abandoning mask use indoors after full vaccination. By the time the interview aired, the CDC had done so.
The claim that Fauci's mask use was for show was made in an Instagram post (archived here) on May 18, 2021. In the post's video, Fauci said at the two minute, 30 second mark:
I'm a physician and a health care provider. I am now much more comfortable in people seeing me indoors without a mask. I mean before the CDC made the recommendation change, I didn't want to look like I was giving mixed signals. But being a fully vaccinated person, the chances of my getting infected in an indoor setting is extremely low, and that's the reason why in indoor settings now, I feel comfortable about not wearing a mask.
This is what the post looked like on Instagram on May 19, 2021:
(SOURCE: Instagram screenshot taken Wed May 19 at 23:07:02 UTC 2021)
The video is a clip from a May 18, 2021, interview (archived here) between Fauci and journalist George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "Good Morning America." In the interview, Fauci attempted to demystify misconceptions about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) updated guidances for fully vaccinated people. At the two-minute and 20-second mark of the video, Stephanopoulos asked Fauci how the updated guidances affected his mask-wearing practices. Fauci began by stating that he was "obviously careful." The rest of his response was featured in the Instagram post: The full-length interview shows that the Instagram clip began in the middle of his sentence.
Fauci also explained his interpretation of the CDC's updated guidelines on the podcast "Pod Save America." In an interview released on May 17, 2021, between Fauci and Jon Lovett, one of the podcast's hosts, Fauci stated (at the 50-minute and 43-second mark):
It's not a mandate to take your mask off. I think that's what people are misinterpreting. It's essentially a scientific statement saying that if you are fully vaccinated, your risk is really very low, not only outdoors, but also indoors. It's saying no more than that. For the people who are not vaccinated, all the recommendations remain the same.
The CDC's updated guidelines state that those who are fully vaccinated should note that mask wearing may still be required on a case-by-case basis. According to the guidelines:
You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
Lead Stories has previously written about Fauci's reluctance to take liberties not recommended from the CDC. Fox News reported that Fauci has been spotted wearing a mask outdoors since the updated guidelines have been published by the CDC. Lead Stories contacted NIAID to ask whether Fauci would begin to make consistent public appearances without a mask and will update this story with any response.