Two tense moments between committee members and the nation’s top disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, highlighted a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee hearing Tuesday. The hearing was held to examine if policy changes are needed to battle the surging Omicron variant of COVID-19. Testifying with Dr. Fauci were CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock, and Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell.
The first tense moment came when Fauci was being questioned by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Sen. Paul accused Fauci of attacking three scientists who claim the virus originated in a Chinese lab.
“do you really think it’s appropriate to use your $420,000 salary to attack scientists that disagree with you,” Paul asked. “You have politically attacked your colleagues and in a politically reprehensible way, you’ve attacked their reputation. You won’t defend it, you won’t argue it, you’ll just simply turn around the facts.”
In response, Fauci accused Paul of “distorting everything about” Fauci. He said this has been seriously damaging to him on a personal level.
“What happens when he gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that all of a sudden that kindles the crazies out there,” Fauci said. “I have… threats upon my life, harassment of my family and my children with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me.”
This is not the first time Fauci and Paul have butted heads at a hearing. The two have argued over everything from mask efficacy to gain of function research.
Fauci’s finances were once again brought up by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS). In another tense moment, he accused Fauci of hiding financial disclosure forms required of public officials. Fauci responded by saying those documents are publicly available upon request.
“You’re so misinformed that it’s extraordinary,” Fauci said. After Sen. Marshall’s questioning was over, Fauci could be heard muttering “What a moron.”
A concern expressed by Republicans and Democrats alike at the hearing was a lack of COVID-19 tests. Committee ranking member Richard Burr (R-NC) described the current U.S. testing system as “broken.”