LOS ANGELES - Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg will talk with Dr. Anthony Fauci on the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in an event that will be livestreamed on the social platform.
Scheduled for July 16 at 2 p.m. ET, the social media CEO will talk with the nation’s leading expert on how the U.S. is addressing the pandemic, developments with potential vaccines, and what can be done to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In an announcement, Zuckerberg also said the company would be launching “Facts About Covid-19,” a section in the platform’s preexisting Covid Information Center “that will debunk common myths about the pandemic, like rumors that drinking bleach will cure the virus (it won't).”
The scheduled chat between Zuckerberg and Fauci follows concerns from earlier in the pandemic regarding the spread of COVID-19 disinformation online.
In a February report, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted that “the 2019-nCoV outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ - an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.”
In April, Guy Rosen, VP of integrity at Facebook, wrote about the platform’s continued efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation.
“We’ve now directed over 2 billion people to resources from the WHO and other health authorities through our COVID-19 Information Center and pop-ups on Facebook and Instagram with over 350 million people clicking through to learn more,” Rosen wrote.
Fauci, once a regular figure during the televised coronavirus task force briefings of months past, has only made sparse appearances on TV in recent weeks. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has not been shy in his media appearances when discussing the severity and worsening of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, at one point warning that if current trends continued, the U.S. could see 100,000 new COVID-19 cases a day.
With U.S. virus cases spiking and the death toll mounting, the White House is working to undercut its most trusted coronavirus expert, playing down the danger as President Donald Trump pushes to get the economy moving before he faces voters in November.
The U.S. has become a cautionary tale across the globe, with once-falling cases now spiraling. However, Trump suggests the severity of the pandemic that has killed more than 135,000 Americans is being overstated by critics to damage his reelection chances.
Trump on Monday retweeted a post by Chuck Woolery, once the host of TV's "Love Connection,” claiming that “Everyone is lying" about COVID-19. Woolery's tweet attacked not just the media and Democrats but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and most doctors "that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election."
At the same time, the president and top White House aides are ramping up attacks against Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert. Fauci has been increasingly sidelined by the White House as he sounds alarms about the virus, a most unwelcome message at a time when Trump is focused on pushing an economic rebound.
“We haven’t even begun to see the end of it yet," he said in a talk with the dean of Stanford's medical school Monday, calling for a “step back” in reopenings.
Last week, Fauci contradicted Trump about the severity of the virus during a FiveThirtyEight podcast. While Trump contends repeatedly that he has done a great job against the pandemic, Fauci said, “As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not."
Trump later said Fauci had "made a lot of mistakes.” He pointed to Fauci's early disagreement with him over the China travel ban and to the evolving guidance over the use of masks as scientists' understanding of the virus improved — points the White House expanded on in statements to media outlets over the weekend.
Asked whether the president still had confidence in Fauci, a White House official on Monday insisted Trump did. The official said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was regarded as “a valued voice” on the White House coronavirus task force. The official spoke on condition of anonymity even though the president has repeatedly railed against anonymous sources.
“I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci,” Trump told reporters Monday, calling him “a very nice person.” But the president added, “I don’t always agree with him.”
Fauci blamed the fact that he has refused to toe the administration's line for its refusal to approve many of his media requests.
“I have a reputation, as you probably have figured out, of speaking the truth at all times and not sugar-coating things. And that may be one of the reasons why I haven’t been on television very much lately,” Fauci said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.