Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before a Senate committee on the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and he had yet another back-and-forth with Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul has recently been hung up on the theory that gain of function research at the Wuhan Virology Institute was funded by the United States government and that there has been an effort by Fauci and others to cover it up. Paul opened the exchange by arguing that Fauci lied about funding this type of research to Congress during a prior testimony and asked the nation’s top infectious disease expert if he wished to retract his statement knowing that it’s a crime to lie to Congress. Fauci doubled down, saying he never lied to Congress, and that “this paper that you are referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain of function.” In a moment of candor, Fauci followed up by telling Paul “you do not know what you are talking about.”
These spats between Dr. Fauci and Senator Paul are becoming routine now and they’re really quite emblematic of the right’s obsession with making public health officials look bad. These right wingers see the work of infectious disease experts trying to bring an end to a one-in-one hundred year pandemic and think they are enemies and that the ideas they are presenting are threats to liberty and the American way. Dr. Fauci has been universally hated by the American right ever since it was clear that he was growing at odds with Donald Trump in the spring of 2020. Soon after, folks like Rand Paul began taking the marching orders and criticizing anyone doing good work on combatting COVID-19. For Fauci, this is about trying to get people vaccinated and implementing the right mitigation measures to prevent more viral spread. For Paul, it’s about making a show so that he can boost his brand by having clips of his encounters circulate within right-wing media circles.
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