Fauci on GOP criticism: A lot of attacks on me ‘quite frankly are attacks on science’

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Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday many of the attacks on him over the past year amounted to “attacking science,” saying all his public health recommendations had been rooted in fact.

In a sympathetic interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Fauci responded to Republican criticisms of him based on released emails last week that delved into his public health recommendations such as on masks, financial links between his federal health agency and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and his early doubts of the “lab-leak” idea that’s become increasingly viewed as a credible origin.

“A lot of what you’re seeing as attacks on me quite frankly are attacks on science, because all of the things that I have spoken about consistently from the very beginning have been fundamentally based on science,” Fauci said. “Sometimes those things were inconvenient truths for people and there was pushback against me, so if you are trying to, you know, get at me as a public health official and a scientist, you’re really attacking not only Dr. Anthony Fauci, you’re attacking science, and anybody that looks at what is going on clearly sees that.” 

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“You have to be asleep not to see that. That is what is going on. Science and the truth are being attacked.”

Fauci has won media accolades as the face of the U.S. coronavirus response but has also weathered criticism for caginess and hyper-caution in his public health messaging, such as insisting in April that children should continue to wear masks while playing outdoors. Recently, he’s come under fire for downplaying connections between the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Wuhan lab where coronavirus experiments take place.

Fauci said Wednesday he continued to believe the virus most likely originated naturally but claimed he and most scientists always had an “open mind” about the lab leak. However, the lab-leak theory, some of them citing scientists who stated categorically the virus originated in nature, was widely dismissed as a conspiracy theory in the media for more than a year.

When asked by Todd for his hypothesis of the virus’ origins, he again fretted he would be taken out of context and didn’t want to speculate.

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Fauci said last year the evidence “very strongly” leaned toward the virus could not have been manipulated in a lab, leading CNN to say he had “crushed” the notion of a lab leak posited by some Republicans.

In one of his released emails, EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak, who has worked extensively with and funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s coronavirus research, thanked him for supporting the “bat-to-human” theory.

Todd previewed his interview with Fauci by saying his recently reported emails “didn’t appear to contain anything particularly explosive” and offered what seemed like a sympathetic comparison to Hillary Clinton.

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“This is an attempt to weaponize something that’s kind of harmless and try to create a controversy. We’ve seen this with emails before, haven’t we?” Todd asked.