Dr. Anthony Fauci fired back at Sen. Ron Johnson on Sunday, calling the Wisconsin Republican “preposterous” for recently claiming that he “overhyped” the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s.
A frequent critic of COVID-19 mitigation efforts who has repeatedly questioned the efficacy of vaccines, Johnson complained to Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade last week that public health experts were trying to “create a state of fear” to “maintain control” amid concerns over the Omicron variant.
Specifically taking aim at the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Johnson likened Fauci’s groundbreaking research into AIDS and HIV decades ago with how the chief White House medical adviser has handled the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“By the way, Fauci did the same exact thing with AIDS,” Johnson exclaimed last week. “He overhyped it. He created all kinds of fear, saying it could infect the entire population when it couldn’t, and he’s doing, he’s using the exact same playbook with COVID: ignoring therapy, pushing a vaccine.”
Asked by CNN anchor Jake Tapper to respond to Johnson’s “bizarre and false assertion,” Fauci didn’t mince words.
“You know, Jake, how do you respond to something as preposterous as that?!” Fauci sighed. “Overhyping AIDS? It killed over 750,000 Americans and 36 million people worldwide.”
He added: “How do you overhype that? Overhyping COVID? It’s already killed 780,000 Americans and over 5 million people worldwide, so I don’t have any clue what he’s talking about.”
Tapper, without missing a beat, drolly quipped: “I don’t think he does either.”
This isn’t the first time that Fauci has been forced to respond to conservative attacks against him, which have reached a fever pitch in recent weeks as the nation approaches yet another COVID-19 variant and an uncertain winter.
Fox Nation host Lara Logan, for instance, sparked intense backlash last week for directly comparing Fauci to infamous Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele—an analogy she’s doubled down on following outcries by Jewish groups and Holocaust remembrance organizations.