Conservative media cast Fauci as a “puppy-killing” “mad scientist,” ignoring contrary evidence
Fauci's agency did not fund the study in question.
Right-wing media, conspiracy theorists, and foreign state-affiliated outlets portrayed Dr. Anthony Fauci as a maniacal “puppy” killer due to a series of experiments conducted in Tunisia. In reality, the evidence suggests that the story likely came from activists who wrongly attributed a study listed as an NIH-funded study to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci leads. National Institute of Health, of which NIAID is a part, also denied funding it, and the study authors later corrected their funding statement.
The Washington Post explains that NIAID funded other dog-involved studies, but the studies didn’t include the gruesome details of right-wing allegations:
It turns out that this Tunisian study was erroneously attributed to NIAID. NIAID did, however, fund different research in Tunisia — and the beagles weren’t puppies, they weren’t euthanized, they weren’t ‘de-barked,’ and they weren’t ‘trapped’ so ‘flies could eat them alive.’ The dogs were given an experimental vaccine and allowed to roam. There was a very good reason for this: Dogs are the main reservoir host (and flies the main vector) of the disease that was being studied, which affects half a million people a year, particularly children, and has a 6 percent mortality rate in Tunisia.
But right-wing news outlets, through stupidity or malice, conflated separate studies funded by NIAID, using documents provided by the White Coat Waste Project, a watchdog group with an anti-Fauci bent.
Right-wing media coverage
Fox News frequently repeated these inaccurate claims about Fauci in late October, and the claims also made an appearance on the outlet’s website. A group of congressional lawmakers led by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) wrote to Fauci “regarding cruel, taxpayer-funded experiments on puppies; debarking before drugging and killing them.” Mace went on several Fox shows where she made false claims.
- Fox News’ headline read “Rep. Nancy Mace says Fauci 'sent puppies to slaughter' with 'barbaric and gruesome' NIH-funded experiments.
- Fox & Friends First guest Abby Hornacek said: “According to a report from the White Coat Waste Project, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spent 1.6 million in taxpayer dollars to fund the research. And what supposedly went down inside the Tunisia lab will absolutely make you sick. The report claims that scientists locked 44 beagle puppies in cages so insects could eat them alive. The group says scientists slit the dogs’ vocal cords so they could work without incessant barking. Now two dozen lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are calling on Dr. Fauci to respond to the report and rightly so. That was hard to read.”
- During an October 25 segment on Fox News’ The Five, co-host Jessie Watters said:
- On October 25, Fox News contributor Lara Trump said on Hannity, “What a horrific thing to see happen to any living creature, and as though we needed any more reasons to dislike Dr. Fauci, as though we needed another reason that he probably shouldn't have his job.”
- During a segment on his show Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox host Tucker Carlson spoke with Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president at PETA, painting a graphic picture of the alleged experiments. Carlson said that “many of these torture sessions -- they’re not even experiments, they’re just torturing animals who love us and can't help themselves -- this is driven by funding.”
Other right-wing outlets -- such as Gateway Pundit, National Review, and The Daily Wire -- have also run with the Fauci-kills-puppies narrative. Right-wing figures also took to social media to amplify similar misinformation.
- The Daily Caller, which also publicized the claim back in August, ran a story in October with the headline “EXCLUSIVE: Fauci-Funded Experiment Killed Dozens Of Puppies Using Taxpayer Money.”
- On October 27, New York Post published an article about legal threats directed at Fauci from an organization called the Beagle Freedom Project. Notably, the story had already been debunked when the Post ran these threats. The claims were repeated in a post on the New York Post’s Facebook page.
- Breitbart ran an article with the headline “Report: Fauci’s NIH Division Partially Funded Insects Eating Beagles Alive.”
- Right-wing figures Dan Bongino and Dinesh D’Souza both shared videos promoting this story from the conservative streaming site Rumble to their Facebook pages. The post Bongino shared was titled “‘You Can't Have Mad Scientists Playing God’ - DeSantis Slams Fauci.” Bongino Report also shared it on Facebook.
- The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro shared The Daily Wire article on this inaccurate narrative, using it as an opportunity to signal boost comments from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attacking Fauci. Shapiro also shared an episode of The Michael Knowles Show (a program hosted by The Daily Wire) titled “SHOCKING: Puppies Tortured and Experimented On Under Fauci's Watch.”
- The Western Journal, an outlet with mixed reliability, posted on its multiple associated Facebook Pages that #FauciLiedDogsDied was trending as a result of the claims.
- Newsmax’s John Cardillo made the chilling assertion that Fauci should “die in prison,” for his alleged involvement in these experiments.
- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) tweeted that she was going to propose the Fire Fauci Act because Fauci is the “highest paid federal employee who funds puppy torture and CCP bioweapons.” Greene also promoted the legislation on Facebook.
- Right-wing figure Sebastian Gorka tweeted, “I’ve had it with puppy-killing COVID fascists Ike Fauci. You?”
- A former administration official under then-President Donald Trump, Richard Grenell, asserted that “Fauci’s treatment of kids and puppies is clearly acceptable to the Washington, DC crowd.”
Fringe and conspiracy media
A number of other, smaller sites also reported on this. While seemingly unimportant, these sites can sometimes form disinformation networks that create the impression of a massive amount of reporting and create the impression of a consensus. Websites devoted to everything from vaccine misinformation to explicit white nationalism repeated the claims to their audiences.
- Vaccine disinformation hub Children’s Health Defense ran an article with the headline “Beyond #BeagleGate: Fauci’s Long History of Atrocities, Including Torturing Children.”
- White nationalist website The Daily Stormer published a story titled “Anthony Fauci Did Experiment Where Live Puppies Have Their Faces Eaten Off by Insects!”
- InfoWars republished an article from Zero Hedge (a general purveyor of misinformation and recognized Kremlin amplifier) with the title “Fauci Funded 'Cruel' Puppy Experiments Where Sand Flies 'Eat Them Alive'; Vocal Cords Severed.”
- The conspiracy theory website Stillness in the Storm published a story with the headline “Fauci Agency Spent Over $1M to Poison Beagle Puppies, Cut Out Vocal Cords: New Report.”
- The conspiratorial website The Church Militant commanded that Fauci “Stop Hurting the Puppies” in a headline.
- The conspiracy-minded anti-abortion site LifeSiteNews quoted Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) saying, “Americans deserve the truth, and this demon doctor must never be allowed to escape justice.” LifeSiteNews published another article titled “Fauci under fire from Democrats and Republicans for alleged research involving puppies, flesh-eating parasites.”
Inaccurate claims about Fauci also proliferated on sites like Telegram, Gab, and the message board 4chan.
- On Telegram, We The Media, a channel run by QAnon influencers, posted multiple times over several days on the subject.
- A Proud Boys channel urged followers to call a provided number to demand Fauci's arrest.
- Russian-linked outlet RT also heavily promoted the story in its Telegram channel, where users discussed and shared misleading related content. RT also circulated the story on its Twitter and Facebook accounts. RT also posted about the story back in August. In late October, it took up the cause of the Fauci-puppy narrative with gusto.
The notoriously toxic platform 4chan also responded to the claims about Fauci with antisemitism, racial slurs, and anti-vaccine sentiments.
The conservative Twitter competitor Gab was ablaze with commentary on the Fauci-puppy narrative, echoing commentary on other platforms.
- Right-wing provocateur Catturd posted a graphic comment about the alleged study.
- A verified user, Pepe Lives Matter, also commented, referencing QAnon conspiracy theory beliefs alongside the hashtag “Beaglegate.”
- Another verified user who describes himself as “That White dude up in New Hampshire,” alongside the hashtags, “LiveFreeOrDie” and “CRTisAntiWhite,” shared a comic attacking Fauci: