“I think that’s self-evident that that’s bizarre," an exasperated Dr Fauci told CNN on Wednesday. "I don't want to get into a back and forth with Tucker Carlson, but it's almost self-evident."
"You’re talking about child abuse, really?" Dr Fauci said of Mr Carlson. "Come on.”
It follows comments made by Mr Carlson, who told Fox News viewers on Monday to call the police or child protective services if they witnessed children playing with face coverings on.
“The only people who wear masks outside are zealots and neurotics,” said Mr Carlson of vaccinated adults wearing face coverings outdoors.
“Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid in Walmart,” the Fox News anchor continued.
“Call the police immediately, contact child protective services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re looking at is abuse, “ Mr Carlson alleged, “it’s child abuse and you are morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.”
The anchor continued by saying that children wearing face coverings was akin to schools informing parents that "every day after lunch, your sixth-grader was going to get punched in the face by a teacher."
The feud between Dr Fauci and Mr Carlson is long running, with the infectious diseases expert telling CNN in September that some of Fox News’s coverage of the virus was "outlandish."
“Even Fox, even on the Fox channels, there are some that are really, really good that I totally respect,” Dr Fauci said. “But there are others that just, you know, anything that I would say they'll distort a bit. And I'm not sure there's anything I can do about that."
In December, Mr Carlson described Dr Fauci the "Patron Saint of Wuhan” and “the high priest of the Covid cult. A paper mask is his sacred garment, cable television is his pulpit,” in apparent mockery.
Monday’s remarks were also widely criticised by Twitter users and commentators — and were again in contravention of medical recommendations for mask wearing.
“This is really, really dangerous,” wrote Asha Rangappa, an analyst for CNN and former FBI agent. “Listen to his tone of voice, and what he’s instructing. He’s moving from his viewers passively consuming his propaganda to having them act on it – against their neighbours. He’s testing his audience’s compliance.”
A lawyer, Bradley P. Moss, added: “Tucker Carlson, in case no one told you, conspiring to induce someone to make a false report of child abuse is a crime in the majority of states. Enjoy.”
The furore around Mr Carlson’s allegations followed the introduction of relaxed recommendations for Americans for face coverings by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday.
Fully vaccinated adults are able be without a mask in most outdoors settings, while children are advised to “wear a mask correctly when in public and when around people they don’t live with”.
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