A day after announcing he was finally going to leave government service at year’s end, chief Biden medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on Fox News and spent over 15 minutes pushing back on a series of right-wing talking points and attacks.
Fauci, who has run the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and served seven presidents, has been regularly vilified by Republicans and conservative media over his cautious approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, GOP lawmakers greeted the news of Fauci stepping down by promising to drag him in front of Congress for additional investigations.
Fox News star Tucker Carlson, who spent two-plus years demonizing Fauci as a “buffoon” and Mussolini-like “dictator,” welcomed the scientist’s pending retirement by accusing Fauci of “very serious crimes” while bizarrely envisioning the “pandemonium at SoulCycle studios” over the loss of their “even tinier version of the Dalai Lama.”
Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of hateful rhetoric that’s been slung Fauci’s way by the network’s hosts and commentators—especially after former President Donald Trump began viciously unloading on Fauci during the waning days of his presidency. In one notorious example, then-Fox Nation host Lara Logan directly compared Fauci to Nazi physician Josef Mengele, sparking widespread condemnation and her disappearance from Fox airwaves.
Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto, however, has largely given the longtime public servant a fair shake while bemoaning the attacks that have been leveled against Fauci by his own colleagues. During his Fox News interview with the outgoing NIAID chief on Tuesday, the veteran journalist—who has touted the COVID-19 vaccines as life-saving after his own bouts with the disease—gave Fauci ample opportunity to answer his critics.
Asked if his retirement “wasn’t a way to avoid Republican investigations if they take over the house and/or the Senate,” Fauci said “not at all” and that he has “nothing to hide.” Pressed if he’d have any reservations about testifying as a private citizen, the public health expert asserted he’d be open to doing so but noted that previous hearings have devolved into partisan bickering.
“I believe that oversight is an important part of the government process. Some of the things that have gone on have been outright character assassination. That’s not oversight,” he declared. “So if they want to get into legitimate dignified oversight, I’d be more than happy to do that.”
Fauci also took issue with a conservative opinion writer grousing that his “massive” $400,000+ yearly pension “should also offend the sensibilities of Americans,” wondering where the author got that figure.
“I mean, would you please have him call me up and tell me where they got that number?” Fauci asked Cavuto, adding that he’d be “very, very surprised” if his annual pension was that high.
“So to be honest with you totally, I don’t even know what it is,” Fauci insisted. “Some newspaper pulls it out of their ear and starts talking about it; I don’t know what they’re talking about.”
The president’s chief medical adviser went on to refute the notion that he “shut down” the nation during the early days of the pandemic, noting that he “didn’t recommend shutting everything down.” Asked whether he regretted if shutdowns went too far, especially with schools, Fauci claimed he was “one of the people that said we have to do everything we can to get the children back in school.”
Fauci, however, really pushed back when Cavuto brought up the origins of COVID-19 and whether the doctor was too dismissive of the theory that the virus was developed via research grants from the National Institute of Health, and eventually leaked out of a lab in Wuhan.
“This is revisionistic history,” Fauci snapped back. “I’ve always had an open mind and said from the get-go, we should keep an open mind as to the origin. As more and more data came in, including now recent papers from highly qualified virologists from many different countries have shown that it is much more likely that it’s a natural occurrence.”
He continued: “The viruses that they were dealing with, anyone that knows even a little bit about virology will tell you that it would be molecularly impossible for those viruses to have turned into, either accidentally or deliberately, SARS-COVID-2. People seem to disregard that and go on with a wide variety of conspiracy theories.”
Cavuto wrapped up the interview by noting that critics feel that Fauci has been “very dismissive” of their criticisms and “didn’t entertain their worries about their fears,” wondering if the Presidential Medal of Freedom winner would care to respond.
“Neil, thank you for giving me the opportunity. You're a fair guy. If somebody says something that scientifically is incorrect and I disagree with them, I’ve become the adversary,” Fauci reacted.
“If somebody says that hydroxychloroquine works and is the miracle cure and I say it’s not, then I’m the bad guy to some people. When in fact it never did work, and it doesn’t work now,” he concluded.
Of course, this was an unsubtle shot at Trump and his allies, who in the early months of the pandemic obsessively pushed the anti-malaria drug as a cure-all even though it was repeatedly found to be ineffective against COVID-19.