Here’s why Anthony Fauci called a GOP senator a ‘moron’. It comes after unrelenting conservative criticism

Dr Fauci becomes the right’s favoured target for baseless conspiracies

John Bowden
Thursday 13 January 2022 16:14 GMT
(Getty Images)

Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, found his way into the headlines this week after he was heard on a hot mic calling a GOP senator a “moron” during a committee hearing.

The incident, while notable, was not a significant departure from the course that he and Republicans have been on since 2020.

At Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Dr Fauci ended a particularly nasty back-and-forth with GOP Sen Roger Marshall over whether or not his financial disclosure forms are public.

They are: The Center for Public Integrity has uploaded the doctor’s most recently available financial disclosure form, from 2020, and The Independent has enquired about the process for viewing other years.

But the episode illustrated a deeper rift that exists between the nation’s top infectious disease expert and right-wing Republicans who have latched on to nearly every Covid-related conspiracy theory they can find.

Dr Fauci pointed that out at Tuesday’s hearing in a moment that went viral, as detractors of GOP efforts to spread nonsense about Covid-19 enjoyed watching the doctor unload his frustrations on a persistent purveyor of such.

“You are totally incorrect,” Dr Fauci told Mr Rounds, later adding to CNN that he found it shocking that a US senator would be so misinformed about the reality of federal officials’ financial disclosure forms being publicly available. “What a moron,” Dr Fauci could be heard on a hot mic.

Tuesday’s hearing was also the scene of a showdown between Dr Fauci and Sen Rand Paul, another Republican famous for spreading misinformation about Covid-19. Last year, Mr Paul famously accused Democrats of trying to spread new variants of the deadly virus around the nation via the resettlement of undocumented immigrants, another favoured target of the nationalist right-wing.

Fauci heard calling Roger Marshall ‘a moron’ after heated exchange

“They’re taking kids from down at the border who may have it, and they’re plucking them up and putting them all over the United States, as if they’re wishing to seed the country with a new variant,” he said.

The GOP’s anger at Dr Fauci stems back to the Trump administration, when former President Donald Trump shifted from appearing alongside him and other public health officials to publicly trashing their advice as his campaign sunk deeper in the polls behind Joe Biden and his handling of the pandemic was identified as a major issue contributing to his downfall.

Today, Dr Fauci is regularly battered by GOP attacks, including conspiracy theories wholly unrelated to Covid-19 such as the bizarre claim that the NIAID director was somehow involved in studies funded by the agency that used dogs to test vaccines for incredibly dangerous diseases.

Those attacks have apparently contributed to frustration that Dr Fauci exhibited on Tuesday at the hearing, where he unloaded on Rand Paul for the repeated, deeply personal attacks that he said were leading to threats of violence against his family. Republicans have fought the image that their rhetoric inspires violence from their followers since January 6, when thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol and attacked members of law enforcement while trying to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory.

Senator Rand Paul and Fauci clash during Senate hearing

The NIAID director came armed with screenshots, and pointed out how Mr Paul was using his personal hatred of Dr Fauci for political gain.

“Go to Rand Paul’s website and you see fire Dr Fauci with a little box that says contribute here. You can do $5, $10, $20, $100. So you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain,” said Dr Fauci, pointing out a donation box emblazoned with his own face in a screenshot taken from Mr Paul’s campaign website.

The ongoing divide amongst the GOP over the issue of whether or not Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective against the disease has led to an embarassing rift in the party as Mr Trump has turned to issuing scathing criticism at Republican politicians who refuse to say whether they are vaccinated out of fear of angering anti-vaxxers.

“I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ Because they had the vaccine, and they’re answering like – in other words, the answer is ‘yes,’ but they don’t want to say it, because they’re gutless. You gotta say it, whether you had it or not, say it,” he told One America News Network this week.

Mr Paul has tread a fine line on the issue. Last year, he told followers that he would not receive the vaccine, but only because he had previously contracted Covid-19 and believed himself (wrongly) to not be at risk of future infection as a result.

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