Slammed for ignoring mask rules, Fauci accuses his critics of being 'mischievous'

Doctor claimed to just be drinking water, though photos suggest otherwise.

Updated: July 25, 2020 - 2:21pm

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Public health official and White House coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci fired back at his critics on Friday for criticizing his failure to follow mask guidelines, claiming his detractors were being "mischievous" after he was caught breaking the face-covering rules he himself has advocated for months. 

The doctor, who in March began spearheading the federal government's response to the coronavirus pandemic here, appeared at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. on Thursday to throw the ceremonial first pitch of the season. Afterwards he stayed to watch the game, which was played between the Nationals and the New York Yankees. 

Photos of Fauci in the stands depict him foregoing a mask at several points during the game, even though he was seated directly next to an individual who was not a member of his household. 

Fauci's behavior appeared to violate not just the basic tenets of mask-wearing that he himself has championed for months, but also local ordinance imposed by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, which stipulates that "persons leaving their residences shall wear a mask when they are likely to come into contact with another person, such as being within six feet of another person for more than a fleeting time."

Responding to critics of his behavior, Fauci later claimed that he was "totally dehydrated" and had removed the mask in order to drink water and "rehydrate [him]self." Yet the photos—which circulated on social media throughout Friday—appeared to show Fauci leaving his mask off outside of the context of drinking water: At one point he was seen without his mask on while talking to his companion and holding his mobile phone, and in another instance he appeared to be watching the baseball game, his water bottle capped and untouched between his knees. 

In one of the photos Fauci's wife, Christine Grady, could also be seen not wearing her mask. 

On Friday, responding to the subsequent criticism while talking to John Roberts on Fox News, Fauci said: “I wear a mask all of the time when I’m outside.”

“To pull it down to take some sips of water and to put it back up again, I guess if people want to make something about that they can," he said. "But to me I think that’s just mischievous."

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