Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Sunday called to prosecute Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Biden who has led the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic since it started during the Trump administration, and drew swift backlash for his comment.
Lawmakers and other officials jumped to Fauci’s defense online.
“I’m a big fan of Dr. Fauci and how he’s calmly guided our country through crisis. Re Musk tweet? Courting vaccine-deniers doesn’t seem like a smart business strategy, but the issue is this: could you just leave a good man alone in your seemingly endless quest for attention?” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said on Twitter.
Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) wrote, “It’s America. You can select any pronouns you damn well please. But Anthony Fauci has likely saved more human lives than any living person in the world. Shame on you.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan called Fauci a “national hero” and accused Musk of stoking hatred.
“Dr. Fauci is a national hero who will be remembered for generations to come for his innate goodness & many contributions to public health Despite your business success, you will be remembered most for fueling public hate & divisions. You may have money, but you have no class,” Brennan said in a reply to Musk.
Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) said Musk “wants to criminalize Anthony Fauci because he disagrees with him” and hit at the Twitter CEO for hypocrisy in his free-speech claims.
Since Musk’s controversial takeover of the social media platform, concerns about content moderation on the sight have surged with reports of an uptick in racist and antisemitic messages on the site.
Musk has tried to situate himself as a champion of free speech and a mouthpiece for the public, using the Latin catchphrase “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” which means “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” He also polled users on reinstating the banned Twitter account of former President Trump and whether suspended users should get “amnesty.”
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Musk called concern over the virus “dumb” — and after he took over the company in late October of this year, he did away with Twitter’s policies about COVID-19 misinformation.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) replied to Trump’s comment on Fauci Sunday, writing “I affirm your pronouns Elon.”
Greene’s personal Twitter account was banned back in January for violating the COVID-19 misinformation policies, but Musk reinstated her last month in his amnesty move.
“Fauci’s resignation should not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic. He must be required to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the Wuhan lab leak. His policies destroyed lives,” wrote Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in response to Musk’s post.
Fauci is preparing to step down from his government roles at the end of the year and has long said he is not concerned about Republicans’ increasing calls to investigate him over the U.S. handling of the pandemic.
“I have nothing to hide at all, despite the accusations that I’m hiding something. I have nothing that I could not explain clearly to the country and justify,” Fauci told The Hill’s “In The Know” last month.
In his final appearance in the White House briefing room a few weeks ago, Fauci lamented the partisan divide that has complicated the country’s response to the COVID-19 virus.
“As a physician, it pains me, because I don’t want to see anybody get infected. I don’t want to see anybody hospitalized. And I don’t want to see anybody die from COVID. Whether you’re a far-right Republican or a far-left Democrat, doesn’t make any difference to me,” Fauci said.