Updated Jun 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

"I'm not addressing him as doctor": Fauci hearing gets heated

Dr. Anthony Fauci, wearing a blue suit and sitting in a committee hearing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic on June 3, 2024. Photo: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

A House hearing featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci descended into the type of dramatic, attention-grabbing partisan infighting that has come to define the 118th Congress.

Why it matters: It's a dynamic that is leading many of the House's low-key workhorses to head for the exits, making way for the ranks of more bombastic legislators to grow.

Driving the news: Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified Monday morning before the House's Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.

  • It was Fauci's first appearance on Capitol Hill since 2022, when he ended a decades-long government career that saw him emerge as the public face of the federal government's efforts to combat COVID.
  • The appearance came as former Fauci aide David Morens has come under bipartisan fire for using a personal email to communicate about COVID origins, bypassing federal disclosure rules.

What happened: Fauci clashed bitterly with many of the Republicans on the panel, but the testiness of those exchanges paled in comparison to the hostility he faced from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

  • Greene refused to address Fauci with the honorific "doctor," instead referring to him as "Mr. Fauci."
  • "Mr. Fauci – because you're not 'doctor,' you're Mr. Fauci in my few minutes ... That man does not deserve to have a license. As a matter of fact, it should be revoked, and he belongs in prison," she said.
  • Greene repeatedly talked over and berated Fauci during her questioning, at one point cutting him off and saying: "Nah, I don't need your answer."

Zoom out: The Coronavirus panel is a subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee, which has hosted some of the most raucous hearings of the last year and a half.

  • It was bound to get chaotic.

Zoom in: Multiple audience members were removed from the hearing room by the Capitol Police for heckling Fauci.

  • As one of them, a woman holding a coffee cup, was being escorted out, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) shouted at her: "Take your Starbucks with you!"

The other side: Democrats, who largely praised and defended Fauci during their questioning, pushed back on Greene's treatment of the former NIAID head.

  • Raskin, the ranking member of the Oversight Committee, asked: "In terms of the rules of decorum, are we allowed to deny that a doctor is a doctor just because we don't want him to be a doctor?"
  • Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) said it is "completely unacceptable to deny Dr. Fauci, who is a respected member of the medical community, his title."
  • "He's not respected. I'm not addressing him as doctor," Greene responded.

Between the lines: The COVID subcommittee chair, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), even stepped in to tell Greene that she "should recognize the doctor as a doctor."

  • "Is this what we have become? Is this what we have devolved into? No decorum," Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) lamented of Greene's comments.
  • Mfume and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) attempted to have Greene's comments stricken from the record, which would have restricted her from speaking during the hearing.

What they're saying: Raskin told Axios that Republicans "are disgracing our Committee and making our workplace a nightmare for witnesses, Members, staff and the American people watching."

  • Garcia, who sits on the same committees as Greene, told Axios in an interview after the hearing, "I personally don't think she should be on any committees."
  • "In talking to people that are retiring, I think you will hear them say that it's a very toxic place ... and there's nobody that brings more of that toxic energy and makes this place more unbearable than her."

The other side: Greene spokesperson Nick Dyer told Axios that he didn't understand why Garcia would want his boss removed from committees: "If she was gone, he wouldn't have anything to talk about because he intentionally places himself behind her in order to attack her."

The bottom line: One House Republican, asked if the outbursts at the hearing are indicative of why many lawmakers are retiring, told Axios: "Yes."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional reporting.

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