Rand Paul vs. Anthony Fauci — again. Fauci says Paul's personal attacks led to death threats, harassment

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Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday said Sen. Rand Paul's repeated false accusations about him, made for political reasons, have led to death threats against him and harassment of his family.

"Senator, we are here at a committee to look at a virus now that has killed almost 900,000 people (in the U.S.)," Fauci, the federal government's top infectious diseases expert, said during a heated congressional hearing. "And you keep coming back to personal attacks on me that have absolutely no relevance to reality.

"What happens when he gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that all of a sudden that kindles the crazies out there, and I have threats upon my life, harassment of my family and my children with obscene phone calls, because people are lying about me."

Paul, R-Ky., has scolded Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, again and again in Senate hearings for his approach to the pandemic. Fauci consistently has pushed back, saying the Kentuckian's claims about him were inaccurate.

Their exchange Tuesday got particularly intense as Fauci drew a connection between Paul's public castigations of him and threats he has faced to his personal safety.

Fauci suggested Paul's repeated pattern of behavior in Senate committee hearings they both attend distracts people from the reality of the pandemic and stirs up dangerous sentiments against Fauci.

As an example of the threats he has experienced, Fauci referenced an incident last month when police arrested a man in Iowa who, according to law enforcement, had an assault rifle and ammunition with him along with a "hit list" that included Fauci's name.

Fauci also called Paul out for fundraising off his behavior toward him.

At the hearing, Fauci held up a piece of paper Tuesday that he said showed a screenshot from Paul's website that declares "Fire Dr. Fauci" and includes a box inviting people to donate.

"You can do $5, $10, $20, $100. So, you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain," he told Paul, who's up for reelection this year and whose campaign has highlighted the senator's opposition to Fauci over and over again in fundraising emails.

Paul quickly hit back, saying, "You have politically attacked your colleagues, and in a politically reprehensible way you've attacked their reputations."

The hearing's moderator, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., cut both men off at that point, saying the meeting needed to move beyond this exchange.

This latest round of Paul vs. Fauci began when the Kentucky Republican questioned Fauci about an email exchange he had in 2020 concerning a proposal by a few epidemiologists from major universities who opposed coronavirus-related lockdown policies — a proposal Fauci did not support.

"Dr. Fauci, the idea that a government official like yourself would claim unilaterally to represent science, and that any criticism of you would be considered a criticism of science itself, is quite dangerous," Paul said.

Fauci responded sharply, telling Paul: "I think in usual fashion, senator, you are distorting everything about me. …There you go again, you just do the same thing every hearing."

Paul claimed Fauci has tried to "take down" people who disagreed with him, but Fauci indicated he'd mischaracterized this and other situations.

He told Paul: "You keep distorting the truth. It is stunning how you do that."

Later on in the hearing, Paul got a chance to speak again and told Fauci:

“Dr. Fauci, it’s disappointing for you to suggest that people who dare to question you are responsible somehow for violent threats.”

He noted he was at the congressional baseball practice in 2017 when a man shot Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and a few other people, adding: “So, for you to somehow suggest that somehow I or people who dare to oppose you are responsible for threats, that’s insulting.”

Follow Morgan Watkinson Twitter: @morganwatkins26.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Anthony Fauci says Rand Paul's false accusations led to death threats