Anthony Fauci has described attacks on him from Republicans as “bizarre”, after a barrage of criticism from senior GOP figures.
The infectious disease expert, who has led the US effort against Covid-19, was forced to defend himself after a former Trump official called him “the father of the actual virus” and the senator Lindsey Graham followed other Republicans in urging Fauci – Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to travel to the US-Mexico border.
Speaking to Fox News, Fauci said he had become a scapegoat for rightwing figures.
“I’ve been a symbol to them of what they don’t like about anything that has to do with things that are contrary to them, anything outside of their own realm,” he said.
In a flurry of tweets on Friday, Graham, from South Carolina, told Fauci: “You need to go to the southern border and witness in person the biggest super-spreader event in the nation.”
Graham was referring to thousands of migrants being held in overcrowded conditions. The administration has said asylum seekers are tested for coronavirus on arrival in the US. It was unclear what Graham thought a Fauci visit would achieve.
“It’s a little bit bizarre, I would say,” Fauci said. “I mean … Lindsey Graham, who I like, he’s … you know, he’s a good person, I’ve dealt with him very, very well over the years, you know, equating me with things that have to do at the border? I mean, I have nothing to do with the border.
“Having me down at the border, that’s really not what I do.”
Fauci, 80, has served seven presidents since 1984, leading the fight against Aids and HIV before emerging as the trusted public face of attempts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday Peter Navarro, who served in various roles under Donald Trump, launched a bizarre rant during an interview with Fox News.
Asked about Fauci’s comment that his pursuit of a vaccine was “the best decision [I] ever made”, Navarro said: “Fauci is a sociopath and a liar. He had nothing to do with the vaccine. The father of the vaccine is Donald J Trump.
“What is Fauci the father of? Fauci is the father of the actual virus.”
Fauci responded, asking: “How bizarre is that? Think about it for a second. Isn’t that a little weird? I mean, come on.”
Last week Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, accused Fauci of remaining silent over conditions at the border. An Alabama congressman also urged Fauci to get involved. In February Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida, criticized Fauci, saying his job “is not to mislead or scare” the American public.
Fauci demurred when asked to respond.
“I am so busy trying to do some important things to preserve the health and the safety of the American people that I can’t be bothered with getting distracted with these people that are doing these ad hominems,” he said.