He's no Baby Yoda, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has developed a large fanbase anyway. Not only can you buy merchandise like socks and T-shirts featuring the doc's image, but a Change.org online petition is calling for the physician to be named People's Sexiest Man Alive. As of Thursday morning, almost 16,000 people had signed it.
"Dr. Anthony Fauci is America's top expert on infectious diseases," the petition reads. "He speaks truth to power, a strength few have at this time. His kind face and manner of speaking bring calm during the storm. ... he is the definitive Sexiest Man Alive in 2020."
A reporter for Vanity Fair magazine asked Fauci if he ever envisioned himself as a candidate for Sexiest Man Alive.
"Well, no," the doctor said. "Absolutely not. But as I often say, when they, when they show this to me at my age, I say, 'Where were you when I was 30?'"
Previous Sexiest Man Alive winners include Idris Elba, David Beckham and George Clooney -- who are arguably a bit different from the 79-year-old Fauci, who's served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. But Fauci might just be the man of the moment. He's become recognizable for his regular appearances at White House briefings discussing the coronavirus pandemic. The New Yorker magazine dubbed him "America's doctor Fauci prayer candles Fauci prayer candles ," and the BBC called him "the face of America's fight against coronavirus."
Fauci's visibility has also made him a target for some. The New York Times has reported that some supporters of President Donald Trump claim the doctor is attempting to undermine the president, and tweet about their beliefs using the hashtag #FauciFraud.
When asked by CBS' Gayle King about reports he's increased security due to threats against him, Fauci said, "You know, it's my job. This is the life I've chosen, and I'm doing it."
Others have turned the doctor into a pop-culture icon, with plenty of Fauci merchandise popping up for sale. Online marketplace Etsy features Fauci prayer candles, fan-club shirts, drinking glasses, socks and more. Redbubble has stickers and shirts asking "What Would Fauci Do?" as well as phone cases and blankets. A bakery in Rochester, New York, even made Fauci doughnuts. There's even a Facebook fan club for Fauci, with more than 77,000 members.