Dr Anthony Fauci does not regret the way he responded to Sen Rand Paul of Kentucky during one of their frequent clashes
In a new interview, NBC News’ Lester Holt asked Dr Fauci whether he had any regrets about the way in which he reacted to some of the questions he faced during his recurring appearances before congressional committees as the pandemic and the country’s response to it dominated every aspect of American life. He said he did not.
“I think 99.9 percent of the time, I have been my usual self — which is very calm and measured,” Dr Fauci said. “The only time I really got upset was when Senator Paul totally inapproprietely, on national TV, that was following that hearing, accused me of being responsible for the death of 5 million people. Now, I’m not going to take that from anybody – including a senator.”
Dr Fauci is preparing to step away from government service with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this month after more than a half-century of government service and nearly 40 years as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Dr Fauci said in an August statement that he is not retiring, and still has the energy required to contribute to his field. The career public servant became a household name two years ago as the country’s most visible official in the midst of the Covid crisis.
While Dr Fauci garnered acclaim and admiration from many for his work, he also became a lightning rod on the right for people and politicians who resisted the public health measures that the CDC was recommending or imposing in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
Among those politicians was Mr Paul, an ophthomologist who declined to get vaccinated against the virus in 2021 and falsely suggested that masking and social distancing are not effective at stopping the spread. Mr Paul has also suggested that the Covid virus may have been the result of a lab leak in Wuhan, China, a theory that US government officials have largely rejected.
The two men struggled at times to hide their disdain for one another as they both attempted to boost their wildly different views of what the most appropriete public health response to Covid was.
“That [clash with Mr Paul] was the one time that I felt I got upset and probably should not have, but I think that’s the only time that I really did that,” Dr Fauci told Mr Holt. “Because I don’t mind oversight at all, I think oversight is a productive part of the process. But when you start off by being accusatory based on no evidence whatsoever and making a slanderous comment, that has to go answered. You can’t let that go unanswered.”