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Dr. Fauci: If you attack me, you’re attacking science

Dr. Anthony Fauci White House briefing

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci kicked off the week with several new high-profile interviews, all of which are garnering headlines thanks to the worrisome new COVID-19 Omicron variant. However, Dr. Fauci continues to step on his own message a bit at times, thanks to a fiery defense of his actions and comments throughout and up to this current moment in the pandemic. As Dr. Fauci put it during a Face the Nation appearance on CBS over the weekend, for example, his critics are “really criticizing science, because I represent science. That’s dangerous.”

Meanwhile, on Monday’s Good Morning America on ABC, Fauci said he doesn’t think any widespread new restrictions are imminent in the US as a result of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. “Obviously, we’re on high alert,” Dr. Fauci told ABC News. “It’s inevitable that, sooner or later, it’s going to spread widely.”

Fauci: No new restrictions over Omicron variant

Right now, scientists are racing to understand the full potential of the new Omicron variant, which was discovered in recent days in South Africa. The fear is that, since it contains many more mutations than the Covid Delta variant, it will be more transmissible. And could possibly even overcome current vaccine protections.

A few countries around the world have started slamming their borders shut to foreigners in an effort to, if not forestall the arrival of this new variant, then to at least curb the numbers they import.

Messaging about the new Omicron variant, meanwhile, is sort of all over the place right now.

  • According to Moderna’s CEO, vaccine efficacy for Omicron has “likely dropped.”
  • Dr. Fauci, this weekend: The US should be prepared to do “anything and everything” to fight the Omicron variant.
  • Also this weekend, from Dr. Fauci: It’s “too early to say” whether we need new lockdowns or mandates in order to do so. Okay, I guess all that sounds good.
  • But wait, Fauci again: Thanks to Omicron, the US has “the potential to go into a fifth wave” of COVID-19.

“These bureaucrats think that they are the science”

President Biden on Monday offered some remarks of his own about the Omicron variant. He urged Americans not to panic, adding that we have more tools now than we did at this point last year (like successful vaccines). On Thursday of this week, the president will unveil a more detailed COVID-19 strategy that encompasses the new variant.

Meanwhile, some of Fauci’s recent comments have drawn the ire of people already intent on opposing him.

It is, to be sure, regrettable that Dr. Fauci has become such a focal point of people’s interest and attention throughout the pandemic. No matter what you think about anything that’s happened. The focus should be on the most scientifically accurate insights we have about the pandemic and the forces behind it. And, of course, those insights can change as scientists learn more. That’s to be expected since COVID-19 — and its offshoots like the Omicron variant — are not anything we’ve encountered before.

Nevertheless, Dr. Fauci has made a lot of this personal. Granted, so do his critics — but it takes two to tango. “(I’m) easy to criticize, but they’re really criticizing science because I represent science,” Fauci said on Face the Nation. “To me, that’s more dangerous than the slings and the arrows that get thrown at me. I’m not going to be around here forever, but science is going to be here forever.”

“I’m just going to do my job and I’m going to be saving lives and they’re going to be lying.” Recalcitrant people, who the good doctor no doubt wants to reach, hear this kind of thing. To them, it sounds like Dr. Fauci is saying: I am the science.

This, of course, brought out the knives from critics like Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton. He called these remarks “just another example of how these bureaucrats think that they are the science, that they represent the epitome of knowledge and those grubby politicians, like the president of the United States and United States senators and representatives, have no business telling them what to do. That’s not the way our democracy functions.”

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Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.