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Microphone catches Fauci describing GOP senator as 'a moron'

Dr. Anthony Fauci probably didn't intend for anyone to hear him call a Republican senator "a moron," but a microphone picked it up anyway.
Image: Dr Anthony Fauci
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Jan. 21, 2021.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Republican Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas did not have an especially good first year as a member of the Senate. The trouble began immediately: The first two votes the GOP senator cast as a new member of the institution were to reject certification of President Joe Biden's victory.

By the summer, Marshall was calling on the president to "resign immediately." By the fall, he was partnering with far-right allies on a government shutdown scheme over vaccine policies.

All the while, the Kansan, who's always eager to remind folks of his medical background — an obstetrician by trade — has pushed Covid-19 rhetoric that "defies medical consensus" and places him "closer to the medical fringe."

In other words, if the senator hoped to earn respect and admiration in his first year as a senator, he fell far short.

His second year isn't off to an especially good start, either. Talking Points Memo reported this afternoon:

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday found himself repeatedly exasperated by the questions GOP senators posed during a Senate Health Committee hearing. Among the Republicans to earn his ire was Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), who demanded his public financial disclosures be made public — even though they already are.

Evidently, the Kansas Republican believes — or at least expects others to believe — that Fauci has hidden his financial disclosure documents. In reality, Fauci has done the opposite for several decades, but the senator either didn't know that or didn't care.

"What are you talking about?" Fauci asked the senator. "My financial disclosures are public knowledge and have been so."

The two went back and forth for a while — at one point, Marshall suggested that "tech giants" are keeping the materials secret — with the senator seemingly asking the White House's chief medical adviser for guidance on how to navigate disclosure materials online. (They're really not that hard to find.)

Even by contemporary political standards, it was difficult to watch the exchange unfold. Marshall kept suggesting that Fauci was hiding publicly available documents, and Fauci tried to explain how absurd that was.

When the senator's time expired, and Marshall backed off, a live microphone caught Fauci whispering, "What a moron."

In fairness, it's worth emphasizing that Fauci probably did not want the comment to be heard by the public, but that's what makes hot-mic incidents so notable: Public figures sometimes speak their minds when they don't know we'll hear them. The result is unvarnished candor.