Dr. Anthony Fauci poked back at a Utah congressman’s legislation that bears the name of the nation’s top infectious disease expert in a CBS News interview.
Appearing Sunday on “Face the Nation,” moderator Margaret Brennan asked Fauci about the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Chris Stewart in the House and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in the Senate, though she didn’t mention either by name.
Fauci was initially hesitant to talk about it before saying, “There’s a lot of politicization of that. And I think there’s a lot of misinformation, disinformation and outright lies about that. And that’s really unfortunate.”
The Fairness and Accountability in Underwriting Chinese Institutions Act — or FAUCI Act — proposes to ban federal funding for “gain-of-function” research in Chinese labs.
Gain-of-function research involves experimentation that aims or is expected to increase the transmissibility and/or virulence of pathogens. Scientists conduct the research to improve understanding of disease-causing agents, their interaction with human hosts, and/or their potential to cause pandemics, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Some claim bat coronavirus research in Wuhan, China, led to the COVID-19 outbreak.
NIH employees or officials who intentionally mislead Congress or the inspector general would also be ineligible for current or future federal grants and employment, according to the bill.
“You’re angry about it,” Brennan said to Fauci, referring to the legislation.
Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, said his concern as a scientist is to preserve and protect public health.
“The politicization of it is really unfortunate because as I’ve said, I’ve stayed away from politics my entire life. I am somebody who only cares about science and health, and it is, you’re right, it’s painful and disturbing to see when you’re trying to focus all of your attention on doing what you can do the way we did to create the vaccines, to develop the drugs, to save millions of lives,” he said.
“And then you have this completely outlandish politicization of it. Politicization of everything. Politicization of the public health, politicization of the origins, politicization of all of it.”
Stewart said earlier this month that the origin of COVID-19 is one of the most important questions the country faces, and Americans deserve accountability and transparency. To ensure answers to those questions, he said, the U.S. must establish consequences for anyone who intentionally misleads congressional investigations.
In introducing the FAUCI Act in early November, Ernst said Fauci lied about how federal money was being used to support experiments on coronaviruses in the Wuhan lab.
In an October interview, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos pressed Fauci asking to what extent the U.S. was funding bat coronavirus research in Wuhan after the NIH released a letter about a New York City-based nonprofit’s research on bat coronavirus spike proteins. The letter says that the subcontractor had not disclosed some results in a timely manner.
“Neither I nor Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the NIH, lied or misled about what we’ve done,” Fauci responded.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has called for Fauci’s firing over the controversy, while Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, says the doctor should be prosecuted for statements he has made about COVID-19.
“I have to laugh at that. I should be prosecuted? What happened on Jan. 6, senator?” Fauci said in the “Face the Nation” interview.
Fauci suggested that lawmakers like Cruz and Paul are trying to make him a scapegoat and deflect criticism of the Trump administration, including over the attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying, “you have to be asleep not to figure that one out.”
“So it’s easy to criticize, but they’re really criticizing science because I represent science. That’s dangerous. To me, that’s more dangerous than the slings and the arrows that get thrown at me. I’m not going to be around here forever, but science is going to be here forever,” the doctor said. “And if you damage science, you are doing something very detrimental to society long after I leave, and that’s what I worry about.”
Both Cruz and Paul fired back at Fauci for saying he represents science.
“Fauci is an unelected technocrat who has distorted science and facts in order to exercise authoritarian control over millions of Americans. He lives in a liberal world where his smug ‘I REPRESENT science’ attitude is praised,” Cruz wrote in the first of a series of tweets.
Paul retweeted a video of the interview and wrote, “The absolute hubris of someone claiming THEY represent science. It’s astounding and alarming that a public health bureaucrat would even think to claim such a thing, especially one who has worked so hard to ignore the science of natural immunity.”
In the interview, Brennan pointed out that many Republicans are taking aim at Fauci.
“That’s OK,” he said. “I’m just going to do my job and I’m going to be saving lives and they’re going to be lying.”