Doctors defend Fauci from Republican attacks 'motivated by partisan politics'

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WASHINGTON — Dozens of the nation’s leading medical experts have come to the defense of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who earlier this week complained during a tense Senate hearing that Republican attacks on his credibility have translated into harassment and misinformation and could lead to violence.

“We deplore the personal attacks on Dr. Fauci. The criticism is inaccurate, unscientific, ill-founded in the facts and, increasingly, motivated by partisan politics,” said the open letter, which was initially obtained by Politico.

Dr. Anthony Fauci shows a screengrab of a campaign website for Sen. Rand Paul while answering his questions at a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing on Capitol Hill on Jan. 11.
Dr. Anthony Fauci shows a screengrab of a campaign website for Sen. Rand Paul. (Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

The list of signatories includes leading experts at the nation’s top medical institutions, many of whom have voiced disagreement with aspects of how the Biden administration has handled the pandemic, with those disagreements growing sharper in recent weeks.

“Scientists can and do express dissenting viewpoints, but a right to an opinion does not mean the opinion is right,” the letter cautions.

The most notable signatories include Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a public health expert who served as an adviser to the Biden presidential transition, and Dr. Bill Frist, the Republican former Senate majority leader.

Fauci “has our unreserved respect and trust as a scientist and a national leader,” the statement says. It comes as the Biden administration is under increasing scrutiny for its handling of the pandemic. Emanuel and others have recently voiced criticism aimed at Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But those criticisms are grounded in genuine policy disagreements and are far removed from the conspiratorial insinuations that have hounded Fauci, a favorite target of Fox News anchors like Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson.

In an angry exchange with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., during this week’s Senate hearing, Fauci accused the libertarian and other conservatives of empowering “the crazies” by spreading misinformation about the virus. Republicans in Congress have charged that Fauci has hidden the source of the coronavirus and, in the most extreme version of those accusations, worked with Chinese authorities to create the pathogen.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., questions Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser and director of the NIAID, at a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing on Capitol Hill on Jan. 11. The committee will hear testimony about the federal response to COVID-19 and new, emerging variants.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. (Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

While no hard evidence has been presented to support those accusations, the origins of the coronavirus remain unclear, and the spread of misinformation about the pandemic is so unrelenting, Fauci has become the subject of outlandish conspiracy theories that are all but impossible to debunk.

At the same hearing, Fauci can be heard calling Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., a “moron” after the two had a heated back-and-forth over Fauci’s financial disclosures.

Earlier on Thursday, an obviously exasperated President Biden asked social media companies to take a more aggressive approach to combating misinformation, but there is little sense that Silicon Valley is eager to become more embroiled in the controversy over free speech.

The statement from Emanuel, Frist and their colleagues lamented that misinformation about the coronavirus has rendered measures like masks and vaccines “unnecessarily controversial, undermining the effectiveness of our country’s response” while also exposing the officials touting such measures — like Fauci — to wave upon wave of vitriol.

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