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Dr Anthony Fauci says inflammatory rhetoric from prominent conspiracy theorist Robert F Kennedy Jr and Fox News personalities has “accelerated” violent threats and abuse directed at him and his family.
The chief medical adviser at the White House and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has routinely been at the centre of right-wing attacks over Covid-19 public health guidance and anti-vaccination campaigns.
Mr Kennedy Jr, who has leveraged his ties to the political family dynasty to lend his anti-vaccine campaign credibility and to draw fundraisers, recently published The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health, in which he accuses the nation’s medical chief of launching “a historic coup d’etat against Western democracy.”
“It’s very unfortunate because I don’t think he is inherently malicious ... I just think he’s a very disturbed individual,” Dr Fauci told Yahoo News on 21 December.
“I was very close to Senator Ted Kennedy, who was such an extraordinary person and a real warrior for public health and to have RFK Jr just spouting things that make absolutely no sense,” he said.
He added that he is “so sorry that he’s doing that ... not just because he’s attacking me – that seems to be the rage among some people – but because ultimately it is going to hurt people.”
His comments to the outlet follow remarks from Fox News personality Jesse Watters at the Turning Point USA’s AmericaFest, suggesting the crowd should “ambush” Dr Fauci in public to question him about the health agency’s alleged support for controversial “gain-of-function” research in China.
“Now you go in for the kill shot,” Mr Watters said. “The kill shot? With an ambush? Deadly. Because he doesn’t see it coming.”
That kind of rhetoric is “accelerated when you have the inflammatory statements that are made, [by] people like RFK Jr and some of the Fox media personalities,” Dr Fauci said, noting that such statements are often free of consequences.
“And when they do that publicly, that’s when I get more death threats and people harass me, my wife and my children,” he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, he suggested that Mr Watters be “fired on the spot” by the network for using such language.
“The only thing that I have ever done throughout these two years is to encourage people to practice good public health practices: to get vaccinated, to be careful in public settings, to wear a mask,” he told CNN.
During a forum at Harvard University's TH Chan School of Public Health in August 2020, he said: “I wouldn’t have imagined it in my wildest dreams that people who object to things that are pure public health principles are so set against it and don’t like what you and I say, namely in the word of science, that they actually threaten you.”