Facing criticism from several high-profile Republicans in recent weeks, the country’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony Fauci, pushed back on some of the claims, calling the remarks flat-out “bizarre.”
The most recent slight came Friday from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who in a series of tweets urged Fauci to visit the U.S.-Mexico border, where authorities are grappling with an influx of migrants, and asked him to witness firsthand what he called the nation’s “biggest super spreader event.”
Graham claimed thousands of Central American migrants are spreading the virus while being detained in overcrowded facilities.
The migrants, he said, are staying “on top of each other” and “dumped off in Texas” and elsewhere in the country. “If you are worried about the spread of COVID, you should be gravely concerned about what is happening at our southern border,” Graham wrote.
Homeland Security Department officials have said all migrants who are brought into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody are tested and, when needed, isolated or quarantined. The government also has said it is working closely with the Mexican government and international organizations who are helping test migrants before entering the United States. Yet federal officials have said there have been “instances” in which migrants have been released without a coronavirus test because of the soaring numbers of migrants coming in.
Some of the arriving migrants who tested positive are being directed to local hotels for isolation in Texas, according to The Associated Press.
Later on Friday, Fauci told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto that the senator was attempting to link him to issues he has no connection with.
“I have nothing to do with the border,” the White House chief medical adviser said, adding that he acknowledged that there is a “very difficult situation at the border” that the Biden administration its “trying as best as they can” to solve.
Fauci also rejected Graham’s suggestion to go down to the border: “Having me down at the border, that’s really not what I do,” he said.
In the same interview, Fauci addressed criticism from other Republicans figures – such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – saying he found the criticisms “a little bizarre” and suggesting that he had become a sort of scapegoat for Republicans.
“I’ve become sort of, for some reason or another, a symbol of anything they don’t like” related to anything “contrary to them or outside of their own realm,” he said.
In his own Fox News interview last week, Navarro was asked about Fauci’s recent remarks about his decision to start trying to work on a coronavirus vaccine in January 2020.
Navarro responded with a slur against Fauci, calling him “a sociopath and a liar” who “had nothing to do with the vaccine.”
“What is Fauci the father of?” he continued. “Fauci is the father of the actual virus.”
Fauci also reacted to those comments Friday.
“How bizarre is that? Think about it for a second. Isn’t that a little weird? I mean, come on,” he said.
Also last week, Meadows questioned why the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has not been more vocal regarding the potential dangers from the coronavirus at the southern border.
“There was no policy, medical or otherwise, that Dr. Fauci wouldn’t weigh in on when President Trump was in the White House,” the Republican wrote on Twitter. “Curious we haven’t heard from the same Dr. Fauci on Joe Biden releasing thousands of COVID untested migrants into the U.S.”
In late February, Rubio tweeted that Fauci’s job was “not to mislead or scare” the American people into doing “the right things,” referring to following recommendations such as the use of masks. Fauci said it was hard to respond to that “without sounding hostile” but denied that he was trying to sow fear in people. Rather, he said, he was giving recommendations based on science and data.
Asked whether the attacks bothered him, Fauci tried to brush them off, saying he is too busy “trying to preserve the health and safety the American people that I cannot be bothered with getting distracted with these people that are doing ad hominems.”