Column: House Republicans would rather demonize Anthony Fauci than help Americans survive the next pandemic

Anthony Fauci looks at the ground as then-President Trump speaks at a news conference.
A presidential news briefing during the pandemic, with Dr. Anthony Fauci at right. House Republicans invited Fauci to a hearing Monday ostensibly to further an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 and the public health response.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

It has become as tiresome as it is predictable: When Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia turns on her microphone during a hearing, it’s time to say goodbye to decorum and hello to vulgar personal attacks.

The House’s clown princess had quite the forum on Monday, when, as a member of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, she got to grill and insult Dr. Anthony Fauci, 83, one of the world’s leading public health physicians, who headed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases from 1984 until 2022 and steered the country through the pandemic.

Opinion Columnist

Robin Abcarian

Ostensibly, the grilling, which was billed simply as “A Hearing with Anthony Fauci,” was the culmination of the committee’s 15-month inquiry into the origins of the virus and the public health response.


In reality, it was a forum for Republicans to continue their attacks on Fauci. As the committee’s ranking Democratic member, Rep. Raul Ruiz of Indio, put it in a news conference before the hearing, Republicans have used the committee to advance the “dangerous narrative that Dr. Fauci somehow funded research that started the COVID-19 pandemic, lied about it and orchestrated a campaign to cover it up.”

The truth, as we know, is that then-President Trump dithered, blathered and showboated as Americans were dying. Who will ever forget the pained look on the face of Dr. Deborah Birx, Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, as she watched Trump suggest we “hit the body” with a powerful light or disinfectant to kill the virus? Or the way Fauci face-palmed when Trump went off on a tangent about the “deep State Department” during one of his inane daily briefings?

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Monday’s hearing was a colossal waste of time and energy. We are no closer to learning conclusively about the origin of COVID-19, nor steps the government can take to strengthen data collection, improve future testing and contact tracing, or address the racial and wealth disparities that were laid bare in that terrible time.

Instead, Republicans, desperate to tarnish Fauci, went to town. Greene took things to absurd lengths.

“You’re not a doctor,” she fumed. “You’re Mr. Fauci,” she said, her voice dripping with disdain.

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland called for a point of order. “In terms of the rules of decorum, are we allowed to deny that a doctor is a doctor just because we don’t want him to be a doctor?”

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Without waiting for a reply from committee Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), Greene thundered on, “Yes, because … that man does not deserve to have a license. As a matter of fact, it should be revoked and he belongs in prison.”


Greene took a kitchen-sink approach to her hectoring. Holding up a photo of two beagles lying on the ground with their heads tented in mesh, Greene sneered, “As a dog lover, I want to tell you this is disgusting and evil, what you signed off on. The type of science that you are representing, Mr. Fauci, is abhorrent and it needs to stop.”

(The National Institutes of Health, which has funded research using beagles and has rigorous rules about their treatment, was not involved in the study that Greene was exercised about. The journal that initially promulgated that claim later retracted it.)

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“What do dogs have to do with anything we’re talking about today?” asked Fauci in frustration.

Amid the blustering, it’s important to remember that during the pandemic, as President Trump and his sycophants were suggesting that Americans do dumb things like inject bleach or ingest anti-parasitics to rid themselves of COVID-19, Fauci was working to understand the novel virus and to promote social rules designed to help prevent transmission.

Did he make mistakes or contradict himself? He did. In the early stages of the pandemic, Fauci suggested that people didn’t need to wear masks before reversing himself. As he testified, the six-feet-apart rule for social distancing was not based on scientific studies but seemed to make sense.

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The editor of the nonpartisan journal the New Atlantis pointed out in a 2022 New York Times essay that a little humility would have served Fauci and the country better. “There was ‌nothing stopping Dr. Fauci in those chaotic early weeks from saying ‘Masks might help, but doctors and nurses need them more now,’ or even just ‘We’re not sure yet,’ ” wrote Ari Schulman. “This would have been far closer to accurately representing scientific understanding and would have done wonders in case the answer later changed, as many elements of guidance were bound to.”


Most of us are willing to cut Fauci some slack for the imperfections, but his embrace of masks, social distancing and, of course, vaccines when they became available made him a figure of hatred for those Americans who do not like being told what to do, especially by scientists. “Don’t Fauci my Florida” became Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ludicrous motto, even as hospitalizations, new infections and deaths per capita soared in his state.

On Monday, Fauci testified that he and his family have been inundated with death threats, two of which were credible enough to have resulted in arrests. “‘Credible death threats’ means someone who clearly was on his way to kill me,” Fauci said at one point, his voice breaking.

You have to wonder why Fauci even volunteered to appear at Monday’s hearing knowing what was in store for him from committee Republicans, who had promised to blow the lid off his mismanagement of the pandemic, but came up with nothing.

“You are an American hero,” said Rep. Robert Garcia, a Long Beach Democrat who lost his mother and stepfather to COVID-19, “and your team has done more to save lives than all 435 members of this body.”

Amen to that.