Dr. Anthony Fauci has been, in many ways, the public face of the government’s response to the pandemic, even with a sometimes adversarial relationship to former President Donald Trump. Now there’s a call from some Republicans to fire Fauci—even though that call would have to come from Trump’s successor, President Joe Biden.
The Hill reported that some Republicans are “seizing on portions of his emails and a renewed interest in the origins of the coronavirus pandemic to demonize the nation’s top infectious disease doctor.” The publication went on to opine that the attacks against Fauci are “largely based on out-of-context comments and draw on unsubstantiated conclusions,” and they also “gloss over the Trump administration’s role in the nation’s early failures to respond to the pandemic.”
That included Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who took to his website to criticize Fauci for questioning that the virus could have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China—an early theory floated by some in Trump’s circle in the pandemic now being reconsidered.
“In most science-based jobs, that would be a fireable offense, but Fauci ran free without any accountability,” Rubio criticized, going on to call Fauci a liar for saying that he didn’t dismiss any theories about the origins of the virus at the outset of the pandemic.
Rubio pointed to a May 2020 National Geographic interview where Fauci dismissed the lab leak theory. In that interview, asked about the theory, Fauci said, “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats, and what’s out there now is very, very strongly leaning toward this [virus] could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated—the way the mutations have naturally evolved. A number of very qualified evolutionary biologists have said that everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that it evolved in nature and then jumped species.”
Then Fauci was pressed further, and Rubio used his response to the follow up as evidence to fire Fauci. The publication asked, “Sure, but what if scientists found the virus outside the lab, brought it back, and then it escaped?”
Fauci responded by saying, “But that means it was in the wild to begin with. That’s why I don’t get what they’re talking about [and] why I don’t spend a lot of time going in on this circular argument.”
Rubio posited, “The lab leak argument is not ‘circular,’ and it presents a plausible answer to a puzzling question: If this virus came from bats, how did bats living in Yunnan more than 1,100 miles away manage to infect humans in Wuhan?
As Newsweek reported, part of the recent concern about Fauci from Republicans comes from the release of his old emails. That includes one to an Obama-era government official in February 2020 saying masks were “not really effective in keeping out virus”—a month before the pandemic was officially declared and well before Fauci’s public stance on masks changed as scientists got more information about how COVID-19 spread.
Fox News quoted Fauci’s email observing, “The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out [the] virus, which is small enough to pass through the material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep[ing] out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you.” While that excerpt concluded, “I do not recommend that you wear a mask,” that certainly didn’t correlate with later messaging from him and other government officials.
Still, that resulted in calls from some leaders to push for Fauci to be ousted.
“The American people don’t have trust in Dr. Fauci,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told the Breitbart News Saturday radio show. “Let’s find a person we can trust. Take politics aside, I mean we’re talking about American lives here.”
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) has introduced a “Fauci Incompetence Requires Early Dismissal Act,” or FIRED Act, which would place a 12-year term limit on the directorship of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—a role Fauci has had since 1984.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), one of the most outspoken House members, tweeted that she has filed a similar bill with the more streamlined name, the “Fire Fauci Act.”