WASHINGTON – The National Institutes of Health said on Monday that a public relations staffer who had been using a pseudonym on a conservative website to attack Dr. Anthony Fauci, who runs the agency, and discount the seriousness of the coronavirus, will retire.
The Daily Beast first identified and reported that William B. Crews was also the managing editor of right-leaning website RedState where, under the fake name “streiff,” derided the government’s work against the coronavirus outbreak, calling it "massive fraud."
The articles directly contradict and demean the agency's recommendations about COVID-19. They also trash Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, calling him a "mask nazi," among other insults.
Other media outlets later reported that the NIAID said it "first learned of this matter this morning" and that "Mr. Crews has informed us of his intention to retire. We have no further comments on this as it is a personnel matter."
Many of his posts alluded to coordinated schemes by public health officials to damage Trump politically. "Streiff" wrote that the "Trump administration were failed at every turn by" Fauci.
The Daily Beast reported that the posts became increasingly conspiratorial as the pandemic continued. One posted to RedState in March was titled: “When Covid-19 Kills 18,000 People Call Me, But Until Then Stop the Scaremongering.”
In June, he wrote, "I think we’re at the point where it is safe to say that the entire Wuhan virus scare was nothing more or less than a massive fraud perpetrated upon the American people by 'experts' who were determined to fundamentally change the way the country lives and is organized and governed."
Another of his posts implied that “government officials responsible for the pandemic response should be executed.”
Fauci has repeatedly stressed the importance of social distancing and wearing masks, while also recently saying the fight against the coronavirus pandemic will only become more strenuous as the year reaches its close.
According to The Daily Beast, Crews has contributed to RedState since 2004, the year it was founded. He has penned more than 400 posts this year alone, sometimes publishing as many as five a day.
In his role at the NIAID’s office of communications and government relations, Crews did not deal directly with reporters or the public, according to The Washington Post, but rather internal communication. According to his LinkedIn profile, Crews has been at the agency since 2007.
Posts on RedState this year have often been published during the workweek and during normal business hours, raising possible questions about the ethical use of taxpayer resources, according the The Daily Beast.
This news follows another government health agency employee's coronavirus PR controversy.
Michael Caputo, who was the top spokesman at the Health and Human Services,the NIH's parent agency, was accused of trying to manipulate COVID-19 data for political purposes, and ended up apologizing for espousing conspiracy theories.
Without offering evidence, Caputo, who was the assistant secretary of public affairs at HHS, accused scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of "sedition," and falsely claimed they had formed a "resistance unit" against Trump.
After he apologized, Caputo announced last week that he would be taking a medical leave.
Contributing: William Cummings, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NIH staffer who called COVID-19 'massive fraud' outed, will retire