Over the course of the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, ostensibly to help answer members' questions about science and the response to the Covid-19 public health crisis.
In fact, the process has become rather predictable. Every few months, the GOP senator, whose background as an ophthalmologist leads him to claim some degree of expertise on scientific matters, comes up with dubious claims (he argued in September 2020, for example, that New York had already reached "herd immunity") or suspect conspiracy theories (Paul claimed in May 2021 that the NIH funded dangerous gain-of-function research in Wuhan), which puts Fauci on the defensive, trying to explain reality.
Yesterday, however, was a little different. NBC News reported:
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, sparred with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., at a hearing Tuesday after Paul attacked him for appearing to disagree with scientists who said the coronavirus originated in a lab in China.
Instead of waiting for the senator to push new nonsense, Fauci seemed to go on the offensive yesterday.
"What happens when [Paul] 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," Fauci said at the Senate hearing.
He took note of a man who was en route to Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago, armed with an AR-15 and magazines of ammunition, with the intention of murdering Fauci.
The White House's chief medical adviser added, "So I asked myself, 'Why would senator want to do this?' You 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."
Looking at the senator, Fauci concluded, "So you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain."
It was a brutal moment, though the Kentucky Republican did not appear chastened. On the contrary, Paul appeared on Fox News last night, and said, in reference to the infectious disease expert, "We think he should be put up on charges."
That's obviously quite nutty, but let's note for context that if Republicans take back a Senate majority in this year's midterm elections, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee — which has oversight authority over the NIH, where Fauci has worked for many years — might very well be chaired by the confused and conspiratorial ophthalmologist.