Power Players

Dr. Fauci uses this line from 'The Godfather' to help deal with stress and politicians

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
(Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

Dr. Anthony Fauci is the nation's leading expert on infectious disease, who is navigating a deadly global pandemic amid extreme political acrimony.

So when things get stressful for the White House advisor, Fauci turns to what he calls his "favorite book of philosophy": "The Godfather."

Fauci says the 1969 novel by Mario Puzo reminds him of the lesson that, "'it's nothing personal, it's strictly business.' That's just how I look at it," Fauci told New Yorker reporter Michael Specter. 

The book "The Godfather," which inspired the movie franchise with the same name, is not a philosophy text; it's a novel about an Italian-American Mafia family, the Corleones. The idea that certain things are "business, not personal" is often reiterated in the book and movie. (Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, memorably delivers the line to his brother, Sonny Corleone, played by James Caan, when the pair disagrees on how to respond to a rival Mafia family.) 

So how does that thinking apply to an infectious disease expert? Fauci, who has worked with six presidents as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that this quote informs how he works with political leaders. 

"You just have a job to do," Fauci told Specter. "Even when somebody's acting ridiculous, you can't chide them for it, you've got to deal with them, because if you don't deal with them then you're out of the picture."

During the pandemic, President Donald Trump's comments have often been at odds with Fauci's. Most recently, during the presidential debate on Tuesday, Trump criticized Fauci, saying that he "changed his mind" about whether or not masks are useful in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Early in the pandemic, Fauci and other experts recommended that the general public not wear face masks to avoid hoarding personal protective equipment that was needed for healthcare workers. But after there was evidence the virus could be transmitted between asymptomatic people, the advice changed.

"I don't regret anything I said then because in the context of the time in which I said it, it was correct," Fauci told InStyle magazine on the subject.

Fauci said now he has been "begging people to wear masks," in an interview on ABC News' "Start Here" podcast Thursday. "Anybody who has been listening to me over the last several months knows that a conversation does not go by where I do not strongly recommend that people wear masks," he said. 

Despite it all, Fauci stays focused on the task at hand: ending the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"I would never be muzzled about anything when it comes to science and evidence and the facts," Fauci, said during an interview on Fox News on Sept. 9.

Fauci said he avoids politics, because "the problem is too important," he told The Atlantic in July. "I just want to do my job. I'm really good at it. I think I can contribute. And I'm going to keep doing it."

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