Fauci to receive National Italian American Foundation's highest honor
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Anthony FauciAnthony FauciScience seeks truth, Trump denies it Fauci says US may want to mandate masks amid COVID-19 surges Trump, Biden final arguments at opposite ends on COVID-19 MORE is poised to be recognized by the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) at its annual awards ceremony gala, a selection that came well before he helped lead the U.S. fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The country's top infectious diseases expert will be saluted Oct. 31 with the group's Leonardo da Vinci Award for Leadership in Health and Science.

Fauci was chosen for the award "based on his incredible track record working for so many presidents and unfortunately through so many serious threats — viral threats, and his work during HIV/AIDS — and just his steadfastness and commitment to transparency," Patricia de Stacy Harrison, CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and NIAF's chairwoman, tells ITK.

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This year's celebration, like countless others in the age of COVID-19, has been transformed into a virtual gathering. It'll feature an interview with 79-year-old Fauci about how growing up in an Italian family in New York City helped shape him, along with a performance by Tony Bennett and appearances by several stars, including Robert De Niro, Kristin Chenoweth, director Francis Ford Coppola and actors Michael Douglas, Alan Alda and Joe Mantegna, among others.

Asked if the choice of Fauci — who was mocked Tuesday by President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE following a spat between the doctor and the president's reelection campaign over an ad that included him — could be seen as political, Harrison said, "You can make politics out of rain if you want to. But our focus on Dr. Fauci is really on what he’s accomplished, where he thinks we’re going in terms of this kind of pandemic or others, and also grounded in what does it mean to be Italian-American."

Conservative radio talk show host and former "Saturday Night Live" star Joe Piscopo told ITK that he "disagrees" with Fauci but is pleased to be among those recognizing him at the NIAF's 45th annual gala.

"They keep pressing him, pressing him, pressing him," Piscopo said with a laugh, "And whether you agree with Dr. Fauci or not, he's from Brooklyn and he keeps his mouth shut. And I appreciate that very much as an Italian!"

"I'll disagree with Dr. Fauci," Piscopo exclaimed, "but you put all that aside when it's your heritage and it's your ethnic family."