But Drosten is even more famous in Germany than Fauci is in America, thanks to a wildly successful podcast he introduced in February. Das Coronavirus-Update rocketed to the top of Germany’s podcast rankings, reliably outperforming programs devoted to sex, crime, and even soccer. Its format is simple: As often as five times a week, he spends an hour answering questions about basic science, the latest Covid research, and how societies might navigate the pandemic. Since starting the show, he’s cut back on contact with the press, reserving most of his comments for the podcast. He declined an interview for this story.

Drosten’s rise has earned him millions of fans—and more than a few enemies. Detractors argue that he wields too much influence, making him a punching bag for what they consider government overreach. After he suggested it could be a while before people might again pack into soccer stadiums, he received death threats, prompting the police to monitor his email.

A key to Drosten’s popularity has been his ability to parry attacks from critics. In May, Germany’s largest-circulation newspaper, Bild, accused him of making a math mistake in a study that concluded children may be as infectious as adults and suggested that schools shouldn’t rush to fully reopen. When a Bild reporter contacted him and demanded answers to a series of questions within an hour, Drosten declined to respond and instead posted the journalist’s email on Twitter. The newspaper, he said, was planning a “tendentious” piece, and he had “better things to do.”

That retort became a rallying cry for his swelling ranks of defenders.