Updated Jun 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Fauci: "Performances" like Greene's at COVID hearing drive up death threats

Anthony Fauci speaks into a small microphone. A hand is in front of him with an index finger pointing up. He is wearing a dark suit and light shirt.

Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies on COVID-19 on Monday. Photo: Tom Williams/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci said death threats spike against him when conservatives publicly criticize his COVID pandemic response — singling out Fox News and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), with whom he clashed during testimony on Capitol Hill Monday.

Why it matters: The former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Biden appeared emotional as he told a Republican-led House panel that the repeated threats he and his family have faced since the pandemic began were "very troublesome."

  • During his testimony, Greene repeatedly berated Fauci and refused to address him with the honorific "doctor," instead referring to him as "Mr. Fauci." "You're not doctor," she said. "You're Mr. Fauci in my few minutes."

What they're saying: CNN's Kaitlan Collins asked Fauci later Monday if he'd ever thought that he would still be getting credible threats against his life, two years out of government service. "It's a pattern, Kaitlan," Fauci replied.

  • "Whenever somebody gets up — whether it's a news media, you know Fox News does it a lot, or it's somebody in the Congress who gets up and makes a public statement that I'm responsible for the deaths of X number of people because of policies or some crazy idea that I created the virus — immediately, it's like clockwork, the death threats go way up." he added.
"So, that's the reason why I'm still getting death threats, when you have performances like that unusual performance by Marjorie Taylor Greene in today's hearing, those are the kind of things that drive up the death threats because there are a segment of the population out there that believe that kind of nonsense."
— Excerpt from Anthony Fauci's CNN interview
  • Representatives for Fox News and Greene did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment in the evening.

Zoom in: During his testimony, Fauci said in response to a question from Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) that he has experienced "everything from harassment by emails, texts, letters of myself, my wife, my three daughters."

  • He added, "There have been credible death threats, leading to the arrests of two individuals," he said. "And credible death threats means someone who was clearly on their way to kill me."
  • Fauci said he relies on protective services and still regularly receives death threats.
  • He turned off his microphone, appearing emotional, before adding that he feels "terrible."

The big picture: Fauci's public testimony Monday was his first since his 2022 retirement.

  • Fauci said his experiences serve as a "powerful disincentive" for young people interested in public health.
  • "The treatment you've received will also have far reaching consequences for the future of science, particularly when done for the public good," Dingell said in her questioning.

The other side: Republicans on the panel grilled Fauci, who denied allegations that he tried to cover up the pandemic's origins as a lab leak.

  • The House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic released private emails that legislators said showed Fauci trying to skirt public records laws.

Go deeper: Anthony Fauci memoir, "On Call," coming June 18

Editor's note: This article has been updated with Anthony Fauci's comments on CNN's "The Source with Kaitlan Collins." Rebecca Falconer contributed reporting.

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