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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

After becoming a top punching bag for the right, Dr. Anthony Fauci is defending himself with a sharp new edge, arguing that an attack on him is an attack on science.

What he's saying: In comments to Kara Swisher on her New York Times "Sway" podcast, shared first with Axios, Fauci says: "It is essential as a scientist that you evolve your opinion and your recommendations based on the data as it evolves. ... And that's the reason why I say people who then criticize me about that are actually criticizing science."

"[T]he people who are giving the ad hominems are saying, 'Ah, Fauci misled us. First he said no masks, then he said masks,'" Fauci said on the podcast, which drops tomorrow. "Well, let me give you a flash. That's the way science works. You work with the data you have at the time."

  • "It was not a change because I felt like flip-flopping. It was a change because the evidence changed, the data changed."
  • "[I]t isn't a question of being wrong. It's a question of going with the data as you have, and being humble enough and flexible enough to change with the data."

After 37 years in his job, Fauci said puts "very little weight in the adulation, and very little weight in the craziness of condemning me."

  • "[I]t gets preposterous, and the thing that bothers you most of all is the impact it has on your family. "
  • "I mean, getting death threats and getting your daughters and your wife threatened with obscene notes and threatening notes is not fun. So I can't say that doesn't bother me."
  • "The more extreme they get, the more obvious how political it is ... 'Fauci has blood in his hands.' Are you kidding me? ... Here's a guy whose entire life has been devoted to saving lives, and now you're telling me he's like Hitler? You know, come on, folks. Get real."

Go deeper: Hear "Sway."

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Go deeper

Sep 20, 2021 - Health

The COVID booster vaccine discussion is far from over

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An FDA advisory panel may have green-lit a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine for a somewhat narrow slice of the population, but the messy process of figuring out who should get another shot of the vaccine — and when — has likely just begun.

Why it matters: Many vaccinated Americans are worried about their level of protection as the pandemic continues to rage. The piecemeal booster decision-making process may be the best way to keep pace with the science, but it's also at risk of becoming extremely confusing.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.