By Caden Pearson
A federal court on Friday ordered Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top officials to testify under oath at depositions in a case that’s uncovered evidence of alleged federal government collusion with big tech companies to censor users.
The attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri and other plaintiffs allege that Fauci, director of NIAID and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, and other defendants, colluded and coerced social media companies to “suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content” regarding COVID-19.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty went a step further than a previous ruling that forced written testimonies and ordered Fauci and other defendants to testify under oath at depositions.
“After finding documentation of a collusive relationship between the Biden Administration and social media companies to censor free speech, we immediately filed a motion to get these officials under oath,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement.
“It is high time we shine a light on this censorship enterprise and force these officials to come clean to the American people, and this ruling will allow us to do just that. We’ll keep pressing for the truth.”
New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) joined the lawsuit in August, representing renowned epidemiologists Drs. Jayanta Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff, as well as Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Jill Hines.
NCLA attorney Jenin Younes said she looks forward to learning just how far the accused government officials went to push their COVID-19 “perspective.”
“For the first time, Dr. Fauci and seven other federal officials responsible for running an unlawful censorship enterprise will have to answer questions under oath about the nature and extent of their communications with tech companies,” said Younes in a statement to The Epoch Times.
The judge also ordered the depositions of former White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Director of White House Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, CISA Director Jen Easterly, and FBI Supervisory Special Agent Elvis Chan.
Fauci’s ‘Self-Serving Blanket Denials’
In his ruling, Doughty said he agreed with plaintiffs that Fauci’s previous “self-serving blanket denials” about his role in censoring views on social media couldn’t be taken at face value.
“Plaintiffs argue that even if Dr. Fauci can prove he never communicated with social media platforms about censorship, there are compelling reasons that suggest Dr. Fauci has acted through intermediaries, and acted on behalf of others, in procuring the social-media censorship of credible scientific opinions.
“Plaintiffs argue that even if Dr. Fauci acted indirectly or as an intermediary on behalf of others, it is still relevant to Plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction motion. The Court agrees.
“Lastly, Plaintiffs argue that Dr. Fauci’s credibility has been in question on matters related to supposed COVID-19 ‘misinformation’ since 2020. Specifically, Plaintiffs state that Dr. Fauci has made public statements on the efficacy of masks, the percentage of the population needed for herd immunity, NIAID’s funding of ‘gain-of-function’ virus research in Wuhan, the lab-leak theory, and more.
“Plaintiffs urge that his comments on these important issues are relevant to the matter at hand and are further reasons why Dr. Fauci should be deposed. Plaintiffs assert that they should not be required to simply accept Dr. Fauci’s ‘self-serving blanket denials’ that were issued from someone other than himself at face value. The Court agrees,” Doughty said in his ruling (pdf).
Censoring Lab Leak Theory
The plaintiffs argued that Fauci allegedly insisted on the censorship of “speech backed by great scientific credibility and with enormous potential nationwide impact” that contradicted Fauci’s views.
Fauci, for example, communicated in a long-shielded phone call with some scientists to discredit any theory that COVID-19 was the result of a “lab leak” in Wuhan, China. The scientists went on to write a paper severely reprimanding others who were open to the theory.
If the lab leak theory were true, in turn, it would mean Fauci could be potentially implicated in funding the research on viruses that caused the pandemic which killed millions worldwide, plaintiffs argued. This is because Fauci funded risky “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology through intermediaries such as EcoHealth Alliance.
In late January 2020 and early February 2020, Fauci was also in touch with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in oral communications about the government’s COVID-19 response. Facebook then allegedly went on censor the lab leak theory, plaintiffs argued.
‘Overwhelming’ Need to Depose Officials
The court also found that Flaherty, Slavitt, Psaki, and other officials also have personal knowledge about the alleged censorship issues and ordered them to be deposed.
Doughty said there is an “overwhelming” need for Flaherty to be deposed to determine whether fundamental rights to free speech were “abridged” as a result of alleged collusion between senior Biden administration officials and Big Tech.
Plaintiffs argued Flaherty had “extensive” oral meetings with Twitter, Meta, and YouTube on vaccine hesitancy and combatting misinformation related to COVID-19.
The judge said there is a “substantive need” for the deposition of Slavitt, who served as the White House’s senior COVID-19 advisor. Doughty noted Slavitt’s remarks on a podcast which “showed he has specific knowledge as it relates” to the issues in the lawsuit.
The court order cited a series of public comments made by Psaki when she served as White House press secretary, including calling on social media platforms for consistency in banning disfavored speakers.
“Psaki has made a number of statements that are relevant to the Government’s involvement in a number of social-media platforms’ efforts to censor its users across the board for sharing information related to COVID-19,” Doughty said in his ruling.