Last week Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health announced that he would be retiring at the end of the year after a long and storied career. Leading Republicans predictably responded by promising to “hold him accountable” for the pandemic. They threatened to send him to prison for “his Frankenstein experiments. ” The ensuing character assassination against this long-time government scientist is something to behold and it’s worth taking a look at how it happened.
Seven presidents, of both parties, relied on Fauci’s advice on domestic and global health, with Barack Obama giving him the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the list of Fauci’s other awards and honorary doctoral degrees a mile long. His resume could not be more impressive.
Factcheck.org looked at all of the right-wing claims against Fauci and found them to be false, even including the inane conspiracy theories such as the one claiming that Fauci’s wife is the sister of Ghislaine Maxwell, the procurer for the late sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. Nonetheless, the Republicans are determined to roast Fauci over the coals if they win the House in November, putting him up for a show trial to entertain the folks, in between their planned Hunter Biden hearings and Joe Biden’s impeachment.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is just one of many Republicans now demanding that Fauci be held accountable for the pandemic and everything Republicans hated about the government response. Perhaps the most notorious of Fauci’s congressional critics is Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, an unaccredited ophthalmologist, who repeatedly challenged Fauci in Senate hearings about the pandemic, accusing him of covering up a personal involvement in the origins of the virus in Wuhan China. Although questions remain about how the virus came to be, this accusation is ridiculous and has been thoroughly debunked.
Even snake oil salesman and TV personality Dr. Oz, the Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, had the nerve to say that Fauci doesn’t see patients so he doesn’t understand disease from a “patient care perspective” — which isn’t true. Fauci does see patients at the NIH Clinical Center. (Oz is no doubt upset with Fauci for refusing to endorse one of his own favorite quack remedies, Hydroxychloroquine.)
More importantly, this assault on the reputation of one of the nation’s top medical experts represents yet another battle in the culture war, and perhaps the most important one of all: the right’s war on science. From its refusal to admit climate change is real to a rejection of vaccines and beyond, the right’s attack on science is the most dangerous of all of its cynical power plays. Sadly, Fauci is just collateral damage — and so are the rest of us.