Dr. Anthony Fauci is tired of being a punching bag for right-wing commentators and conspiracy theorists.
America’s top immune disease expert and adviser to President Biden defended himself in robust fashion during an extended interview with Kara Swisher for the New York Times’ “Sway” podcast. Fauci addressed a number of topics, including the stream of increasingly personal attacks against him by right-wing hardliners who have been parsing thousands of his emails that were recently made public.
“And the thing that bothers you most of all is the impact it has on your family. I mean, getting death threats and getting your daughters and your wife threatened with obscene notes and threatening notes is not fun. So I can’t say that doesn’t bother me. I mean, the more extreme they get, the more obvious how political it is. Fauci is like Hitler. Fauci has blood on his hands. Are you kidding me?”
Fauci says that once he learned the emails were being made public, he knew some on the right would cherry-pick parts to try and discredit him. Over the course of the pandemic, he became a favorite target of former president Trump, Fox News commentators and especially far-right Republican lawmakers such as Jim Jordan and Rand Paul.
During the interview, the Wuhan lab leak theory came up. Here’s a transcript of what Fauci said about it, and recent claims that the Trump Administration had evidence of it (which no one has seen):
"In April of last year, President Trump announced that his administration had evidence that proves the lab leak theory, but never put it forth. Did you see any evidence? I mean, I haven’t seen it because I’m not sure it exists. What we’re seeing right now is a major increase in incidents of interest — that is, of tweeting, of speculation — but no real increase in definitive data or evidence whatsoever. And I think the people who look carefully at that really come away with saying, well, what is different now than what was known or being said a year ago? There is this so-called intelligence that three members of the human lab were ill, requiring hospitalization. And I really wonder what the strength of that intelligence is, what the confidence in it is. It certainly has gotten bantered around. And I have said that if the intelligence is firm and real, then you should make sure we find out what the health records of those sick people are. But if it’s very weak, flimsy intelligence, then there’s nothing there. I always keep an open mind. I feel, as do the overwhelming majority of scientists who have knowledge of virology and knowledge of evolutionary biology, that the most likely explanation for this is a natural leap from an animal reservoir to a human."
Swisher also asked Fauci about his initial assessment in February 2020, very early on in the pandemic, when he said it was not necessary to wear a mask. He said at the time, there was no real evidence that masks, outside of a hospital room situation, would prevent the spread of COVID-19. He also said there were concerns about a possible shortage of masks that would hamper the efforts of hospitals. He also noted that the CDC and the Surgeon General agreed with him, and then forcefully reiterated that his stance on masks changed as more data was gathered.
He also laughed off another conspiracy theory popular in GOP circles, that he conspired with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to censor free speech. The genesis of that theory comes from Zuckerberg’s name being redacted from an email, something Fauci insists he had nothing to do with.
Of course, Fauci point-blank denying and dismissing these conspiracy theories won’t make them go away. Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn reiterated her belief that Fauci and Zuckerberg were in cahoots in a Sunday tweet.