Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) complained about the new coronavirus variant making global headlines by comparing it to what he called the “overhyped” AIDS crisis while appearing on a Fox News host’s podcast Wednesday.
Wednesday was World AIDS Day.
Without a wisp of tact, Johnson likened the way Dr. Anthony Fauci has issued warnings about the omnicron variant of COVID-19 to the way Fauci warned about the threat of AIDS. Since cropping up as a potential threat late last month, the variant has prompted new travel bans around the world as scientists work to determine whether omicron causes more severe illness, and whether existing treatments are sufficiently effective in combating it.
“Fauci did the exact same thing with AIDS. He overhyped it,” Johnson told “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade.
“He created all kinds of fear, saying it could affect the entire population when it couldn’t. And he’s doing, he’s using the exact same playbook with COVID, ignoring therapy, pushing a vaccine,” the senator said, receiving no pushback from the host.
Ron Johnson on Omicron: "Fauci did the exact same thing with AIDS. He overhyped it. He created all kinds of fear, saying it could affect the entire population when it couldn't. He's using the exact same playbook with COVID, ignoring therapy, pushing a vaccine." pic.twitter.com/uL2IMThje7
— Tim Hogan (@timjhogan) December 1, 2021
More than 700,000 people in the United States have died from illness related to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, since it first began spreading. Contrary to the senator’s claim, any person can develop AIDS if they contract HIV through certain bodily fluids of an infected person and leave it untreated. (HIV cannot be transmitted through kissing or sharing food.)
Government officials, including Fauci, were criticized by LGBTQ activists at the time for failing to take the threat of AIDS seriously, and failing to act swiftly to prevent its spread. Eventually, though, Fauci became instrumental in American research efforts to treat HIV, which was particularly detrimental to LGBTQ communities in the 1980s and 1990s.
Efforts to develop an HIV vaccine have so far been unsuccessful, although there are very effective treatments.
Johnson, who worked as a businessman before becoming a senator, has repeatedly pushed COVID-19 misinformation.
He asserted on Kilmeade’s podcast that Fauci’s warnings about omicron are simply about taking away individual liberties, saying: “You want to create a state of fear, to keep us in the state of fear, to maintain the controls.”
Public health officials around the world also advocate remaining vigilant against the omicron variant as a precautionary measure until researchers have more answers.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.