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Fact check: False claims about Fauci email 'leak' mischaracterize FOIA requests and release

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The claim: Fauci’s emails were leaked

In early June, Dr. Anthony Fauci and his guidance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic became major targets for misinformation after thousands of his early 2020 emails were released.

Critics have inaccurately characterized these emails as “leaked” evidence of various pandemic conspiracies.

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“BREAKING NEWS DR. FAUCI'S EMAILS WERE LEAKED,” reads one image posted to Facebook June 2.

“All of these leaked emails prove exactly what we knew all along,” claims another June 2 post.

A popular meme claims the "leaked" emails serve as evidence that Fauci “was a fraud."

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. stoked the flames similarly over the released emails. On June 2 she tweeted, “After reading through Anthony Fauci's leaked emails, it's more clear than ever that our country needs to #FireFauci.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wears "Trump won" mask.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wears "Trump won" mask.

However, the very premise of this reasoning is false: The emails weren't leaked.

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USA TODAY messaged several accounts that posted Fauci’s emails were “leaked” for comment.

Emails were released; not leaked

Describing the emails as "leaked" fuels conspiracy theories about the seriousness of the pandemic and the legitimacy of the government response, treating this as a "gotcha" moment for people pushing those conspiracies as fact.

But that's not how these emails came to light.

Fact check: No, email to Fauci doesn't contain origin of a 'coronavirus bioweapon'

Fauci’s emails were released at the request of several media outlets under the Freedom of Information Act, which grants the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. After a FOIA request is submitted, federal agencies are legally obligated to disclose relevant information with few exceptions.

Documents subject to FOIA include correspondence from government employees. Fauci serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, making his emails subject to disclosure.

In its June 1 exclusive report, the Washington Post explained that it obtained 866 pages of Fauci’s March 2020 and April 2020 emails through a FOIA request.

BuzzFeed News also submitted a FOIA request and received 3,200 pages of Fauci’s emails spanning January 2020 to June 2020.

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Our rating: False

We rate the claim that Fauci's emails were leaked FALSE, because it is not supported by our research. The federal government released Fauci's emails at the request of several media outlets under the Freedom of Information Act.

Our fact-check sources:

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False Fauci email 'leak' claims misrepresent FOIA release