In the past few days, after the listing for a coming book by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration's top adviser on COVID-19, was taken down from Amazon's and Barnes & Noble's websites, right-wing outlets and social media commentators spread the rumor that it had been removed because of public backlash to the idea of Fauci's "profiteering" from the pandemic.
In truth, Fauci is not making any money from the book, which is about lessons he has learned during his decades in public service, and the listing was pulled for a simple reason: The publisher had posted it too early.
Fauci "will not earn any royalties from its publication and was not paid" for the book, "Expect the Unexpected," said Ann Day, a spokeswoman for National Geographic Books, its publisher. She said Fauci also would not earn anything for a related documentary.
Fauci did not respond to a request for comment.
The book, which compiles interviews and speeches given by Fauci during his 37 years as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was taken off the websites because "it was prematurely posted for presale," Day said. She added that proceeds would "go back to the National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education and to reinvest in content."
In a statement, the institute noted that the book had not been written by Fauci himself. The institute also confirmed that he would not earn any royalties.
The falsehood about the book and Fauci spread widely online. On May 31, the right-wing outlet the Daily Caller published an article about the book's appearing for presale online. Some conservative Republicans, including Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona and Dan Bishop of North Carolina, seized on the article.
"His lockdown mandates destroyed livelihoods and threatened our children's futures," Bishop posted on Twitter on June 1. "Now he'll be profiting nicely off it."
The post was liked and shared more than 2,700 times.
That same day, Newsweek and Fox News published articles highlighting the "backlash" that Fauci faced from right-wing commentators "for profiting from pandemic." The articles did not mention that he would not make money from the book. They reached as many as 20.1 million people on Facebook, according to data from CrowdTangle, a social media analytics tool.
On June 2, a conservative outlet, Just the News, posted an article asserting that Fauci's book had been "scrubbed" from Amazon and Barnes & Noble because of the backlash. The founder of the site, John Solomon — a Washington media personality who was instrumental in pushing falsehoods about the Bidens and Ukraine — tweeted the misleading article. So did pro-Trump activist Jack Posobiec, who once promoted the false Pizzagate conspiracy.
"Books are removed from bn.com from time to time if the details are loaded incorrectly," a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman said in a statement to the Times. "This book was not removed proactively by Barnes & Noble. We expect it will be available again shortly for purchase as soon as the publisher decides to list it."