Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee about the Coronavirus pandemic, Washington DC, July 20, 2021
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top Coronavirus expert, calls out the disinformation of Senator Rand Paul at a Senate committee hearing.
Throughout the pandemic, Paul has minimized the threat of the virus, criticizing containment measures such as social distancing and the wearing of masks. He has barracked the top American medical and public health experts, including Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
On Monday, the Kentucky senator grandstanded that Fauci lied before Congress over research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in the Chinese city where the pandemic started at the end of 2019. The Senator repeated the right-wing trope that the National Institutes of Health funded “gain of function” research, enhancing a virus in a lab to study its potential impact in the real world.
Paul snapped, “Dr Fauci, knowing it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11?”
Fauci did not give way: “Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress and I do not retract that statement.” He explained that a study cited by Paul was about an entirely different virus and that “this paper that you are referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain of function”.
The senator tried to talk over Fauci, pointing his finger at the doctor. The expert finally summarized, “Senator Paul, you do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about.”
He continued, “If anybody is lying here, senator, it is you.”
Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota asked Fauci if he had additional comment to “counteract these attacks on your integrity that we’ve all just witnessed”. Fauci responded:
This is a pattern that Senator Paul has been doing now at multiple hearings based on no reality. He was talking about gain of function, this has been evaluated multiple times by qualified people to not fall under the gain of function definition. I have not lied before Congress. I have never lied. Certainly not before Congress. Case closed.
As he belittled and lied about the pandemic, Donald Trump repeatedly insulted Fauci as a “disaster” and medical and public health experts as “idiots”. Last summer, Trump pushed aside Fauci in favor of the neuroradiologist Scott Atlas, who advocated the spread of the virus for “herd immunity”.
Paul has been used by right-wing sites as a point man for ongoing attacks on Fauci since Trump’s departure from office. Outlets such as Town Hall headline “Democrats Rush to Rescue Fauci After Rand Paul Wrecks Him Again”. Trump’s former Acting Director of National Intelligence and Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell assailed the “known liar Dr. Fauci”.
But attack site Breitbart breaks away by quoting Fox TV’s Neil Cavuto: “At his core, he’s a good man, a good doctor….We’ve all got to just step back.”
In late May, President Joe Biden ordered staff to investigate the origins of Coronavirus and report to him within 90 days.
Throughout last year, most US experts believed that the virus originated in animals, possibly bats, and was transmitted to humans. But last week, reports indicated that Administration personnel are equally divided between animal transmission and an accident at the Wuhan lab releasing the virus.
Fauci told the Senate panel that the Delta variant now accounts for more than 80% of new Coronavirus cases, echoing testimony by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Walensky explained, “This is a dramatic increase, up from 50% [in] the week of 4 July.” She said deaths rose by almost 48% over the past week to 239 per day.
Fauci emphasized that vaccines are more than 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths. However, Walensky pointed to the challenge of those refusing inoculations: “Each death is tragic and even more heartbreaking when we know that the majority of these deaths could be prevented with a simple, safe available vaccine.”
The US reported 61,965 cases on Tuesday, the highest number since April 23. There were 298 deaths, bringing the total for the pandemic to 609,529.