Leonardo DiCaprio praised him. Avengers directors Anthony and Joseph Russo called him “a real superhero—and we’re experts in that field.” And singer Dio DiMucci serenaded him with a song called “I Got The Cure.” The country’s most famous Italian American celebrities and other prominent leaders gushed about Anthony Fauci at a virtual gala for the National Italian American Foundation on Saturday evening.
The annual event—emceed by comedian/radio talk-show host Joe Piscopo and Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo—is typically a black-tie affair, but this year due to the pandemic, Al Pacino appeared with disheveled hair on his couch and Kristen Chenoweth wore an orange Charlie Brown sweater.
Coincidentally, the organization had chosen Fauci as a guest of honor last fall before the pandemic. “Before all of this happened, you could email Dr. Fauci and you would get a response immediately,” chair Patricia de Stacy Harrison, CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, told Washingtonian. The get made for a hot ticket, and all kinds of celebs wanted to say grazie to Fauci. More than 40 notable names recorded messages for the gala—from actress/signer Patti LuPone and director Martin Scorsese to former CIA director Leon Panetta and former president George W. Bush.
Fauci accepted the Leonardo da Vinci Award for Leadership in Health and Science from a home study stacked with books, photos, and what appeared to be a bobblehead and a prayer candle with his own face.
NIAF also played a recorded interview with the infectious-disease expert. He talked about growing up in Brooklyn, where he delivered prescriptions from his parents’ pharmacy from age eight. “The family was the neighborhood,” he said. The sense of people looking out for others helped steer him into medicine.
Though the president was never mentioned by name, some of Fauci’s remarks could be read as subtweets: “If you want to be successful in addressing and ultimately conquering this terrible outbreak, you’ve got to be honest, you’ve got to be clear, you’ve got to be consistent, you’ve got to be trustworthy.”
He added that those were qualities that came from his Italian American heritage: “You would never betray a friend. You would never be dishonest with somebody. . . . You would always cover your people’s backs.”
The following night at a campaign rally, Trump suggested that he’d fire Fauci after the election.