In a public appearance covered by an NBC News affiliate, there is the following comment by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis with context (emphasis mine) via DeSantis announces $20M funding for cybersecurity education in Florida on 2 March 2022:

A few questions focused on legislative topics were touched on, with the governor saying he’d need to see more about it before giving an answer, then he spoke about COVID-19 and the current status of the pandemic and related federal policies.

“I think, I’d have to think about some of the stuff, I mean, I agree if you think about what they’ve done, Fauci is in the witness protection program now. They don’t want him out, no, they’ve never, if you listen to them, they never supported all of these policies that were so destructive, they all want to be like Florida all of a sudden and nothing has changed,” DeSantis said. “There has been no change in the underlying science, the ineffectiveness of those policies was apparent long ago. The destructiveness of those policies was apparent long ago.

The governor's comment may have been metaphorical, but I am uncertain. It has been picked up by many other sources, e.g. the legal website, Legal Insurrection, Where in the World Has Dr. Anthony Fauci Gone?

A news source with a verified profile on Twitter posted the following on 2 March 2022:

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) asked by a reporter if he agreed with anything from Biden’s SOTU. After hemming and hawing, DeSantis says, “I agree, if you think about what they’ve done, Fauci is in the witness protection program now.”

When I did a Google search, it returned this:

It looks like these results are changing quickly
If this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for reliable sources to publish information

  • 15
    This is a weird one. He's clearly not making that claim. It's obviously a metaphor (read the rest of the paragraph twice). But maybe lots of people are hearing this guy and thinking DeSantis is making this claim and it does need to be debunked? Mar 8, 2022 at 2:07
  • 14
    @OwenReynolds I'm not a native speaker, but to me he makes the very clear statement that Dr. Fauci is in witness protection. Maybe he can wiggle out that he didn't mean to make this statement but the words that came out of his mouth will be interpreted by a lot of people as him making exactly that claim.
    – quarague
    Mar 8, 2022 at 10:12
  • 2
    He has been given a security detail, because of all the death threats. But that's absolutely not the same thing. Mar 8, 2022 at 14:44
  • 5
    Apparently this has become widespread enough that Politifact felt the need to dispel the rumor. This was published 16 hours ago politifact.com/factchecks/2022/mar/07/facebook-posts/… Mar 8, 2022 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


This appears to be a misinterpretation - it is a figurative, not literal, use of "witness protection program".

The article was first posted:

Mar 2, 2022 / 09:55 AM EST

Just 45 minutes later, Fauci was part of a press briefing:


10:40 A.M. EST

MR. ZIENTS: Good morning. And thanks for joining us today as we release President Biden’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.

Today, I’m joined by Secretary Becerra, Dr. Walensky, and Dr. Fauci. We’ll each deliver some remarks, and then open it up for questions.

  • 65
    Even "figurative" is generous as Dr. Fauci appeared in a press briefing after the governor of Florida made his remarks. I would call DeSantis's statement a lie. Mar 7, 2022 at 17:51
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    @DavidHammen: I was wondering if it was a snarky, bad-taste reference to the reports about a month ago of the constant death threats Fauci has received. But I am not savvy enough with foreign (to me) politics to be confident about that.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 8, 2022 at 0:26
  • 12
    The text just afterwards explains the figurative nature. He's clearly saying "they're embarrassed by him so are hiding him so deeply it's like he's in the WPP". Mar 8, 2022 at 2:03
  • 16
    There are a vast number of cultural connotations here. For example, (whether it's true I don't know) people usually think of gangsters targeting their own for retribution more than neutral witnesses, so saying someone is in the WPP vaguely suggests that they are somehow criminal. Also, WPP implies losing some degree of autonomy, being under police control and keeping a "low profile" by not doing anything exceptional you might have done otherwise. ('They don't want him out') So there's a whiff of all around insult there. Mar 8, 2022 at 2:09
  • 8
    It seems like De Santis may also have been conflating WPP with protective custody. But it seems clear to me that whatever he was saying was intended figuratively and probably as an exxageration
    – Barmar
    Mar 8, 2022 at 14:49

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