Dr Anthony Fauci raised the hackles of conservative pundits and his critics on the right when he suggested in an interview on Wednesday that attacks on him were ‘attacks on science.’
Leading Fox News personalities, including Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, used their respective platforms to rebuke the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, laying the accusation of self-aggrandizement at his feet.
Fauci’s remarks seemingly equating himself with science also unleashed a wave of scorn on Twitter, with critics on the right calling the veteran doctor a ‘petty tyrant’ with a God complex.
Fauci’s comments and the ensuing firestorm came after Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton called on Fauci to resign, or face termination, arguing that he misled the American people on the origins of COVID-19 and the use of face masks at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fighting words: Dr Anthony Fauci came under fire on Wednesday after telling MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that attacks on him were ‘attacks on science’
Laura Ingraham, the host of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, derided Fauci’s remarks, saying that he was making himself out to be a ‘deity’
‘A lot of what you’re seeing as attacks on me are, quite frankly, are attacks on science because all of the things I have spoken about from the very beginning consistently have been fundamentally based on science,’ Fauci said during Wednesday’s interview.
He continued: ‘If you are trying to get at me as a public health official and scientist, you’re really attacking not only Dr. Anthony Fauci, you are attacking science. And anybody that looks at what is going on clearly sees that. You have to be asleep not to see that.’
Fauci was responding to a question from Todd about the dangers of discrediting public health officials, saying that it could make people lose confidence in the vaccine program, the way it happened in Russia.
Laura Ingraham, the host of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, played the clip from Fauci’s interview, then proceeded to deride his remarks, saying with a smirk: ‘wait a second, is that the argument? His argument is essentially…’I am the science! I am the truth!’ she said in a deeper voice.
She went on: ‘the man does think he’s some kind of deity.’
Ingraham’s colleague, Sean Hannity, likewise seized on Fauci’s remarks, saying that he ‘got really pissed off, very defensive, even indignant, trying to claim any criticism of him is a criticism of science.
‘No, just the opposite,’ Hannity said, before introducing his guest, Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, and inviting him to weigh in on Fauci’s comments.
‘I know Dr. Fauci, I like Dr. Fauci, I respect Dr. Fauci,’ Kennedy said. ‘But Dr. Fauci needs to cut the crap. This isn’t about Dr. Fauci. It’s not about his feelings, and I’m sorry if his feelings were hurt. You know, maybe he ought to buy an emotional support pony.’
Also on Wednesday, Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson took a swipe at Fauci, calling him ‘King Tony Fauci.’
He later followed up, saying: ‘normal people don’t talk that way. It’s not Fauci who just believes he is immune. You are not allowed to say anything negative about him or the culture revolution.’
Right-wing critics of President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser quickly took to Twitter to pour scorn on him over his comments.
Newsmax reporter John Cardillo did not mince words, writing: ‘Only a sociopathic narcissist speaks of themselves in the third person and considers themselves the final say on “science.” Fauci should die in prison then be buried under the place.’
Curtis Houck, managing editor of NewsBusters, opined in a tweet: ‘Fauci comes off horribly in this. He comes off like an angry, petty tyrant who’s upset that he’s no longer a dictator ruling the country under the guise of everything he said being “fundamentally based on science.”‘
Meanwhile, conservative talk radio host Buck Sexton mockingly paraphrased French King Louis XVI’s famous saying ‘I am the state,’ tweeting: ‘”Le Science, C’est moi” – Dr Fauci.’
Fauci came on Todd’s Meet The Press show a day after Senator Blackburn, from Tennessee, posted a video accusing the scientist of working with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and ‘cherry-picking’ facts so the public only knew what Zuckerberg and Fauci wanted them to know.
Fauci said that he did not want to criticize a US senator, but said he had ‘no idea what she was talking about.’
Conservative politicians and pundits, who have long criticized Fauci for his handling of the pandemic, stepped up their attacks on him last week, after a trove of his emails were released to The Washington Post and Buzzfeed News through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Right-wing critics claim that the emails paint Fauci as a liar who flip flopped on the effectiveness of using masks and dismissing the possibility that the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, and did not came from an animal.
In one email that was written on February 5, 2020, before COVID-19 had become a pandemic, Fauci wrote: ‘Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection. The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material,’ reads the email, which Fauci sent to Sylvia Burwell.
Sean Hannity said Fauci ‘got really pissed off, very defensive, even indignant, trying to claim any criticism of him is a criticism of science’
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson took a swipe at Fauci, calling him ‘King Tony Fauci’
Burwell, who is president of American University and a former Secretary of Health and Human Services, had asked Fauci whether she should take a mask to the airport.
Weeks after Fauci sent his response to Burwell, at the end of February 2020, there were still fewer than 100 reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
Marsha Blackburn is one of three GOP senators who are calling on Fauci to resign
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on April 3, 2020, to recommend that people wear masks, Fauci also promoted that message.
Senators Blackburn, Cotton and Rubio joined forced this week to demand that Fauci step down, or be fired by the Biden Administration.
‘Dr. Fauci has lost the confidence of the American people with his repeated evasions, misdirection, and politicized statements,’ Cotton said, as Fox News reported. ‘If he won’t resign, Joe Biden should fire him.’
Rubio claimed that Fauci has withheld information from the public for 16 months, dismissed ‘plausible explanations of COVID’s origin’ and lie to Congress.
‘He is supposed to be a fact-based public health official, not a pundit distorting the truth to conform with his personal judgment,’ said the senator from Florida.
Following the release of Fauci’s emails, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called Fauci an ‘undeniable asset in our country’s pandemic response.’
Asked during a press briefing if she can imagine any circumstance where Biden would ever fire Fauci, Psaki curtly replied, ‘No.’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called Fauci an ‘undeniable asset in our country’s pandemic response’