Dr. Anthony Fauci slammed Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday for encouraging threats on his life by mounting vociferous public attacks “with not a shred of evidence,” telling the Kentucky Republican that he was “incorrect in almost everything you say.”
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was testifying at a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, when Paul, an ophthalmologist by training, used his allotted five minutes to go after Fauci’s credibility. The hearing also included CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, and Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, who were questioned by lawmakers about the federal government’s response to new COVID-19 variants.
Paul has regularly trafficked in bizarre conspiracy theories regarding COVID. Earlier this year, he insisted that public health officials were discounting the use of folk remedies such as hydroxychloroquine, which has not been proven to work at all against COVID, and ivermectin—a drug used to treat head lice and intestinal parasites—because of their “hatred” for ex-President Donald Trump. As hospitalizations rose in Paul’s home state of Kentucky, he urged Americans to ignore CDC guidelines and “anti-science mask mandates,” which have been proven to reduce transmission of the virus. And over the summer, Paul claimed without any proof that Democrats were taking migrant children from border areas and “putting them all over the United States” to “seed the country with a new variant.”
During his time at the Tuesday hearing, Paul described Fauci as someone who “would claim unilaterally to represent science and that any criticism of you would be considered a criticism of science itself,” calling it “quite dangerous.”
Paul was referring to an internal CDC email in which Fauci questioned the findings of certain studies he viewed as “fringe.”
“A planner who believes he is the science leads to an arrogance that justifies in his mind using government resources to smear and to destroy the reputations of other scientists who disagree with him,” Paul said. “Do you think it’s appropriate to use your $420,000 salary to attack scientists that disagree with you?”
Fauci replied, “That’s not what went on. There you go again. You do the same thing every hearing.”
But beyond simply misinforming the public, Fauci pointed out that Paul’s rhetoric has real-life consequences.
“So the last time we had a committee or the time before he was accusing me of being responsible for the death of 4 to 5 million people which is irresponsible,” Fauci said. “Why is he doing that? … The first is, it distracts from what we’re all trying to do here today, is get our arms around the epidemic and pandemic we’re dealing with, not something imaginary. Number two, what happens when he gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue, is that all of a sudden that kindles the crazies out there and I have threats upon my life, harassment of my family, and my children, with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me.”
Fauci admitted that he could “take the hit,” because “that’s the way it goes.” However, he noted that a man who was recently caught by police with an AR-15 and “multiple magazines of ammunition“ allegedly told investigators he was on his way to Washington, D.C. “to kill Dr. Fauci.”
“So I asked myself, ‘Why would the senator want to do this?” Fauci continued. “Go to Rand Paul’s website and you see: ‘Fire Dr. Fauci,’ with a little box that says, ‘Contribute here.’ You can do $5, $10, $20, $100. You are milking a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain.”
In a statement provided to The Daily Beast late Tuesday afternoon, Paul said, “Anyone who dares to question Fauci’s smear campaign against other scientists is accused by Fauci of fomenting violence. As someone who actually was the target of semiautomatic gunfire by a Bernie Sanders supporter, I never once accused Senator Sanders of being responsible for the attack and I resent Fauci avoiding the question by ginning up the idea that his opponents are the cause of threats.”
Paul’s reelection website alleges that Fauci, who was at the leading edge of AIDS research for decades, “has abandoned science and embraced theatrics at the expense of our freedom.” Before asking for donations, Paul’s website says Fauci has been “lying about everything from masks to the contagiousness of the virus,” and calls for him to be fired.
“I have a great deal of respect for this body of the Senate, and it makes me very uncomfortable to have to say something [like this], but he is egregiously incorrect in what he says,” Fauci said.