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To Protect Fauci, The Washington Post is Preparing a Hit Piece on the Group Denouncing Gruesome Dog Experimentations
For years, the White Coat Waste Project was heralded by The Post as what they are: an activist success story uniting right and left. But now its work imperils a liberal icon.
Anger over the U.S. Government's gruesome, medically worthless experimentation on adult dogs and puppies has grown rapidly over the last two months. A truly bipartisan coalition in Congress has emerged to demand more information about these experiments and denounce the use of taxpayer funds to enable them. On October 24, twenty-four House members — nine Democrats and fifteen Republicans, led by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) — wrote a scathing letter to Dr. Anthony Fauci expressing “grave concerns about reports of costly, cruel, and unnecessary taxpayer-funded experiments on dogs commissioned by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases." Similar protests came in the Senate from a group led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
The campaign to end these indescribably cruel, taxpayer-funded experiments on dogs has been underway for years, long before Dr. Facui became a political lightning rod. In 2018, I reported on these experiments under the headline "BRED TO SUFFER: Inside the Barbaric U.S. Industry of Dog Experimentation.” That article described “a largely hidden, poorly regulated, and highly profitable industry in the United States that has a gruesome function: breeding dogs for the sole purpose of often torturous experimentation, after which the dogs are killed because they are no longer of use.”
Along with the videographer Leighton Woodhouse, I also produced a two-minute video report which used footage from experimentation labs filmed by activists with the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) to show the graphic, excruciating horrors to which these dogs are subjected (the video, which is hard to watch, is appended to the bottom of this article). In our reporting, we noted the cruel irony driving how and why particular dogs are selected for this short life of suffering and misery and detailed just some of the barbarism involved:
The majority of dogs bred and sold for experimentation are beagles, which are considered ideal because of their docile, human-trusting personality. In other words, the very traits that have made them such loving and loyal companions to humans are the ones that humans exploit to best manipulate them in labs. . . .
They are often purposely starved or put into a state of severe thirst to induce behavior they would otherwise not engage in. They are frequently bred deliberately to have crippling, excruciating diseases, or sometimes are brought into life just to have their organs, eyes, and other body parts removed and studied as puppies, and then quickly killed.
They are force-fed laundry detergents, pesticides, and industrial chemicals to the point of continuous vomiting and death. They are injected with lethal pathogens such as salmonella or rabies. They have artificial sweetener injected into their veins that causes the dogs’ testicles to shrink before they are killed and exsanguinated. Holes are drilled into their skulls so that viruses can be injected into their brains. And all of that is perfectly legal.
Most of these dogs, after being bred, are "devocalized,” which the advocacy group NAVS describes as “a surgical procedure which makes it physically impossible for the dog to bark.” Though entailing pain and suffering, the procedure prevents the dogs from screaming in pain. As we noted in that article, researchers acknowledge that few to none of these experiments are actually medically necessary. This 2016 op-ed in The San Diego Union-Tribune by Lawrence Hansen, a professor of neuroscience and pathology at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine who once engaged in experimentation on dogs, explains why he is so ashamed to have participated given their medical worthlessness.
While numerous advocacy groups have been working for years to curb the abuses of these experiments, one group, White Coat Waste Project, has found particular success as a result of an innovative strategy. Advocacy groups know how polarized American politics has become, and that, as a result, a prerequisite for success is constructing a movement that can attract people from all ideologies, who identify with either or neither of the two political parties, but unite in defense of universally held values and principles.
White Coat has accomplished this with great success by fusing the cause of animal rights (long viewed as associated with the left) with opposition to wasteful taxpayer spending (a cause that resonates more on the right). The fact that love for dogs, and animals generally, has grown across all demographic groups further enables them to unite people from across the spectrum, including in Congress, in support of their cause. They routinely attract both Democratic and Republican members of Congress to sign on to their campaigns to end taxpayer-funded experimentation on animals, and are funded almost entirely through small-donor, grass-roots support that comes from the right, the left, and everything in between. Each year, they publicly award members of Congress “who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the War on Waste, by exposing and stopping $20 billion in wasteful and unnecessary taxpayer-funded animal experiments,” and those honored are always a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
More than any other group, it is White Coat that has elevated the cause of stopping these horrific government experimentations on dogs and puppies into the mainstream political conversation. And numerous media outlets — led by The Washington Post — have spent years publishing flattering profiles on this group and its innovative bipartisan strategies. In November, 2016, for instance, The Post published reporting about White Coat's activities — under the headline: “Should dogs be guinea pigs in government research? A bipartisan group says no” — which heralded the group and its activists for being one of those rare Washington success stories that unites both left and right around a common cause:
That Post article detailed how White Coat was a group that had drawn from both Republican and Democratic political circles, and had deliberately formulated its messaging and goals to appeal to all sides of the political divide:
It’s no accident that the Congress members hosting the event are a bipartisan pair. White Coat Waste emphasizes that it is not a traditional animal advocacy organization, but one focused on what it says is government waste on testing — the kind of issue that could appeal to both fiscal conservatives and animal rights activists. Its founder, Anthony Bellotti, is a Republican strategist whose LinkedIn profile lists experience managing campaigns against Obamacare and federal funding for Planned Parenthood. [Vice President Justin] Goodman formerly worked for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
“We oppose taxpayer funding of animal experimentation. That’s it,” Bellotti said. “We don’t take a position on cosmetics testing any more than we do on vegan nutrition”. . . . In 2014, a Pew survey found that 50 percent of Americans oppose the use of animals in scientific research, with Democrats and political liberals slightly more opposed than Republicans and conservatives.
“Finding effective ways to limit unnecessary and expensive animal tests is good for taxpayers and is good for our animals,” [Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)} said in a statement sent to The Washington Post. “As a member of the Appropriations Committee that funds these agencies, I certainly welcome more analysis on what federal agencies are doing in terms of testing on dogs and other animals. I look forward to collaborating with a bipartisan group of my colleagues in Congress to address this problem.”
Throughout the Trump years, The Post continued to report on the group's work in flattering ways, always emphasizing its purely non-partisan agenda and their ability to bring together left and right. Though The Post once referred to them as “a right-leaning advocacy group,” White Coat has been described by the paper for years as an animal rights group uniting all camps by combating the use of taxpayer dollars for experiments most would find morally reprehensible. After all, during the Trump years, they were protesting experimentations done by agencies controlled by the Trump administration, so heralding their work aligned perfectly with The Post's political agenda of flattering the views of their liberal readers.
One 2018 Post article on White Coat described how “a nonprofit animal rights organization filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the U.S. Agriculture Department, seeking information about experiments during which thousands of cats have been euthanized at a facility in Maryland.” A 2020 Post article described White Coat as “a small watchdog group that has generated bipartisan congressional opposition to [the Veteran Administration's] dog research by arguing that federal animal testing is a waste of taxpayer dollars.” A 2018 Post article on a similar campaign simply described it as “an animal rights group.” A 2017 Post article described White Coat's success in recruiting renowned British primatologist Jane Goodall to the cause of stopping cruel FDA experiments on primates, calling it “an advocacy group that says its goal is to publicize and end taxpayer-funded animal experiments.”
So The Post, like most major media outlets, has been reporting on the successes of the White Coat Waste Project fairly and favorably for years. Most people in Washington and in the media regard success in bridging divisions between the citizenry and ideological camps as a desirable and positive objective, and few groups have done that with as much success as White Coat. And thus, along with trans-ideological public support, the group has been lavished with positive media coverage — until now.
Now everything has changed. The government official who oversees the agencies conducting most of these gruesome experiments has become a liberal icon and one of the most sacred and protected figures in modern American political history: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and President Biden's Chief Medical Advisor. Many of the most horrific experiments, including the ones on dogs and puppies now in the news as a result of White Coat's activism, are conducted by agencies under Fauci's command and are funded by budgets he controls.
In other words, White Coat's activism, which had long generated bipartisan support and favorable media coverage, now reflects poorly on Dr. Fauci. And as a result, The Washington Post has decided to amass a team of reporters to attack the group — the same one the paper repeatedly praised prior to the COVID pandemic — in order to falsely smear it as a right-wing extremist group motivated not by a genuine concern for the welfare of animals or wasteful government spending, but rather due to a partisan desire, based in MAGA ideology, to attack Fauci.
In emails sent last week to the group, Post reporter Beth Reinhard advised them that she wanted “to talk about White Coat Waste and the #beaglegate campaign.” She specifically asked for a wide range of financial documents relating to the group's funding — far beyond what non-profit advocacy groups typically disclose. “May I request your 2020 filing with the IRS,” Reinhard first inquired. White Coat quickly provided that. On October 30, White Coat Vice President Justin Goodman provided even more financial documents — “attached are the Schedule Bs. I’ve also attached a breakdown of our funding sources from 2017-Q3 2021,” he wrote in an email to Reinhard — yet nothing satisfied her, because nothing in these documents was remotely incriminating or helpful to the narrative they were trying to concoct about the group's real, secret agenda.
After White Coat voluntarily provided more and more detailed documentation about its finances, it became obvious what fictitious storyline The Post was attempting to manufacture: that this is a far-right group that is funded by "dark money” from big MAGA donors, motivated by a hatred of science and Dr. Fauci. But in trying to manufacture this false tale, The Post encountered a rather significant obstacle: White Coat is funded almost entirely by small donors, grass-roots citizens who use the group's website to make donations.
Once The Post was repeatedly thwarted in its efforts to concoct the lie that the group is MAGA-funded, Reinhard continued to insist that there must be hidden right-wing funding sources, and even began demanding that White Coat take some sort of bizarre vow never to accept right-wing or "pro-Trump" funding sources in the future. On Monday, she sent them this flailing email:
In response, Goodman — who, prior to joining White Coat, had spent close to a decade as PETA's Director of Laboratory Investigations — pointed out the obvious: “We already have disclosed our largest donor, which is the grassroots, and it's been our largest funder for many years in Democrat and GOP Administrations.” He added: “we have not turned down, solicited or received a dime from any Pro-Trump or conservative groups, nor have any approached us before or during #BeagleGate.” While noting that “some of our other larger supporters, like LUSH Cosmetics, are already public,” Goodman detailed that little has changed in terms of fundraising as a result of this recent campaign targeting cruel experimentations on beagles: “Regarding fundraising, we estimate that Aug-Sep 2021 is approximately 31% lower than the prior period during 2020. And we estimate (and I stress estimate) that fundraising in October 2021 was approximately the same as Sept 2021, give or take."
Documents provided by White Coat both to me and The Post demonstrated that the group's average donation in 2020 was $30.47, obtained by 81,805 individual donations (that includes all donations, including from groups). The group took no PPP bailout funds, and received, in its words, “$0 gifts from conservative aligned groups ever.” The spreadsheet they prepared shows estimated and approximate totals for 2021 along with detailed funding sources for the prior two years:
What is going on here is almost too self-evident to require elaboration. For years, The Post favorably covered the animal welfare work of this group without even remotely suggesting it had some nefarious ideological agenda, let alone investigating its finances. Only one thing has changed: their work in highlighting gruesome dog experimentations now has the possibility of undermining Dr. Fauci or harming his reputation, and thus The Post — acting like the pro-DNC liberal advocacy group that it is — set out to smear White Coat as right-wing MAGA activists in order to delegitimize and discredit their investigative work and, more importantly, give liberals a quick-and-easy way to dismiss their work as nothing more than an anti-science MAGA operation even though they are nothing of the sort.
Even more disturbing was the telephone call which Goodman had on Monday with Reinhard and another Post reporter, Yasmeen Abutaleb, assigned to the health and COVID beat. During that call, Abutaleb in particular repeatedly demanded to know whether White Coat was concerned that the activism they were doing on these dog experimentation programs could end up harming Dr. Fauci's reputation and thus make him less able to manage the COVID crisis. They even suggested that by encouraging people to call the NIH telephone lines to protest this experimentation, they might be making it difficult for people with questions about COVID to get through. The obvious premise of the entire conversation was one completely antithetical to the journalistic ethos: it is immoral to do anything that reflects negatively on Dr. Fauci now, no matter how true or warranted it might be, because his importance is too great to risk undermining him. (Request for comment from Reinhard was not responded to as of publication of this article, but will be added if supplied).
In general, as this controversy has unfolded, media outlets have expressed almost no interest in the immorality and atrocities of these taxpayer-funded dog experimentations, and instead have acted as political activists with only one goal: protect Dr. Fauci. PolitiFact, for instance, purported to fact-check White Coat's campaign (laughably calling them “a conservative watchdog group”) by implying they were lying. Aside from citing (but not verifying) NIAID’s denial that they funded one of the experiments, they acknowledged that they did indeed fund others, but then pointed out that nobody could prove that Fauci personally approved the funding for these experiments. Yet that is a claim White Coat has never made and which, in any event, is as unlikely as it is irrelevant given that, for thirty years, Fauci has been the head of the agencies conducting these experiments which have long been the target of activist protest. It is simply impossible that he was unaware of these controversies.
After speaking with the two Post reporters, Goodman told me that “it’s clear based on my conversations with them that rather than investigating the horrific puppy experimentation being funded with our tax dollars by Anthony Fauci — about which they have asked virtually nothing — they are instead interested in attempting to discredit our organization and #BeagleGate campaign in order to run defense for Fauci.” He also described the sudden change in The Post's behavior in reporting on them: “in just five 5 years, the paper went from featuring our group as a model of bipartisanship in the animal protection movement and highlighting our winning campaigns to end taxpayer-funded animal testing to now trying to smear us a conservative front group that doesn’t really care about animals, all because we dared to criticize St. Fauci.”
Bellotti described The Post's sudden turnaround this way:
Having personally witnessed the horrors of animal testing, I founded [White Coat] to unite liberty-lovers and animal-lovers, Republicans and Democrats, Libertarians and vegetarians to fight against wasteful taxpayer-funded animal experiments. Widening the tent is how you win campaigns, and we’ve done this more effectively than any other organization, resulting in historic wins for animals, from shutting down the government’s largest cat experimentation lab to freeing monkeys from federal nicotine addiction experiments to bringing dog testing at the VA to record lows. This has all been done on a shoestring budget with overwhelming support from grassroots advocates and donors. Apparently for some though, disparaging Anthony Fauci for funding the abuse of puppies is a bridge too far. But, to suggest that we’re out to accomplish anything other the save animals from wasteful government spending and abuse is simply not true nor supported by any actual evidence.
Newspapers like The Post vehemently deny that they have any political agenda, insisting that they are devoted to non-partisan and apolitical reporting. Very few people believe this fraud any longer, which is why trust in journalism has collapsed so precipitously, but rarely do we see a test case that so vividly illustrates how they really function.
For years, The Washington Post reported fairly and truthfully on this group, because none of its activities threatened any government officials whom the paper wishes to protect. Suddenly, when the work they have been doing for years began to reflect poorly on a government official vital to American liberalism, The Post launched a campaign that is not even thinly disguised but nakedly clear in its goal: to smear this group by impugning its motives and distorting its agenda so that its work is immediately and uncritically disregarded by the paper's overwhelmingly liberal audience.
In addition to the White Coat Waste Project, another group — the Beagle Freedom Project — is devoted ending experimentations on beagles, and also works to rescue them and find them homes once their use in research labs is exhausted, so they can live the latter stages of their lives with love and companionship. You can read about and support that group's work here.
Correction, Nov. 2, 2021, 4:48 pm ET: This article was edited to reflect the fact that only Goodman, not Anthony Bellotti, was on Monday afternoon's call with the two Washington Post reporters.
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