If you’ve traveled to the depths of hell lately, i.e. listened to a Republican speak for more than a few minutes, you might have noticed that the GOP has been trying very hard to convince people that Anthony Fauci is the antichrist. The campaign started at the beginning of the pandemic, when the veteran immunologist made it clear that he wouldn’t blindly go along with Donald Trump’s proclamations about the deadly virus—or his homeopathic recommendation to inject bleach—and has ramped up over the last several weeks, as conservatives insist they have found a smoking gun proving that Fauci is guilty. Of what, you might ask? Well, they’re not entirely sure, but they’re willing to bet that they have evidence proving things like (1) Fauci knew about COVID-19 before the rest of the U.S. and covered it up; (2) he worked with China to leak it from the Wuhan lab to the U.S.; or (3) he is the bat from which the virus originated, only taking on human form in public in a Bruce Wayne sort of way.
On the heels of the release of Fauci’s emails from early on in the pandemic, which don’t actually evince anything, senators Marsha Blackburn, Marco Rubio, and Tom Cotton have demanded that Fauci either resign or be fired, claiming that he has “lost the confidence of the American people,” which is only true if the “people” are GOP lawmakers, Fox News, Trump, and his eldest son. “Fauci needs to step down,” Blackburn told Fox News this week. “And the Biden administration should ask him to step away from his post.” Rubio was similarly incensed, baselessly telling the network, “For 16 months we have seen Dr. Fauci withhold information, dismiss plausible explanations of COVID’s origin, and outright 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.” Rubio added: “If President Biden is committed to science and finding the truth about COVID, he needs to fire Fauci.” Claiming that the highly respected researcher has engaged in “repeated evasions, misdirection, and politicized statements,” Cotton insisted that if Fauci “won’t resign, Joe Biden should fire him.” The calls follow a Tucker Carlson segment from earlier this month in which the host demanded Fauci be criminally investigated, calling him the “patron saint of Wuhan,” and a deranged statement from Rep. Matt Gaetz, who told Spicer & Co. that “Dr. Fauci has blood on his hands, and now the entire country knows it.” As The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan notes, “the fringe Gateway Pundit website published a story blaming Fauci for millions of deaths,” while Donald Trump Jr. “shared a murder meme about Fauci on Instagram last week.”
In response to the unhinged criticism, Fauci said in an interview with MSNBC that the attacks on him “are attacks on science,” and that “anybody that looks at what’s going on clearly sees that. You have to be asleep not to see that. That is what’s going on. Science and the truth are being attacked.” Referring to a conspiratorial video Blackburn posted to her Twitter account, Fauci told Chuck Todd, “I don’t have a clue what she just said.... I have no idea what she’s talking about. I’m sorry, I don’t want to be pejorative against a United States senator, but I have no idea what she’s talking about.” Responding to the various conspiracy theories pinning COVID-19 on him, he said, “If you go through each and every one of the points, which are so ridiculous, just painfully ridiculous, but nonetheless, if you go through each and every one of them, you can explain and debunk it immediately.” He added, “People wanna fire me or put me in jail for what I’ve done—namely, follow the science.... It’s preposterous, Chuck. Totally preposterous.”
In response to Fauci’s assertion that attacks on him are attacks on science, which they no doubt are, considering the GOP’s extremely anti-science platform, Senator John Kennedy weirdly told Sean Hannity, “I know Dr. Fauci, I like Dr. Fauci, I respect Dr. Fauci. 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. But we’re not debating dance moves on TikTok here. We’re talking about millions of human lives.”
Of course, to conservatives’ chagrin, the White House shows no signs of taking its personnel cues from Republican trolls, calling Fauci an “undeniable asset” to the country during the pandemic. On Tuesday, Andy Slavitt, then a senior adviser on the pandemic response, credited Fauci with helping to “invent and invest in” the mRNA vaccine platform “over the last two decades so that we would be ready in case the worse should happen.” “That’s how you got your vaccine in the first place,” Slavitt said. “So thank you, Dr. Fauci.” (Trump, who basically thinks he invented the vaccine, will no doubt have something to say about that in a pitch only dogs can hear.) Last week White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, “The president and the administration feel that Dr. Fauci has played an incredible role in getting the pandemic under control and being a voice to the public throughout the course of this pandemic,” adding at another press conference that “he’s overseen management of multiple global health crises, and attacks launched on him are certainly something we wouldn’t stand by.”
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