A "disconcerting" political divide is hurting the ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a bipartisan online "fireside chat" Monday with former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
Fauci, who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and is the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told Frist that "because I am representing science" telling people to get vaccinated and to wear masks, "I get attacked" with death threats that require him to be protected by federal agents.
Fauci has also been criticized by Republicans in the House and Senate. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is one of Fauci's harshest critics and has openly sparred with him during committee testimony, accusing Fauci of being responsible for the pandemic and funding gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that Paul and others say resulted in a lab leak.
Fauci has called all of Paul's accusations "egregiously incorrect."
During Monday's event, Fauci told Frist, "What we're seeing is a public health issue which requires synergy among all elements of our government, where we realize that the common enemy is the virus."
When people speak sometimes, Fauci, said, "it's almost that the enemy is each other." As a result, public health decisions seem to be based on ideological considerations.
"You should never have that," he said.
"You should never have, looking at a map, and seeing that people who are vaccinated fall heavily into one group and people who are unvaccinated fall heavily into another group," he continued. "That is so antithetical with what public health should be, which should be a concerted effort on the part of the entire population."
Fauci never mentioned parties or votes, but studies have shown lower vaccination rates in areas that voted for former President Donald Trump.
Frist, a former Republican Senate Majority leader in the early 2000s and a heart and lung transplant surgeon, responded that when the GOP was in the majority Congress doubled funding for the National Institutes of Health, but said now, "It seems like a lot of those same people are questioning science.
"It's become more of a partisan divide around science," he added.
"You're right," Fauci said. "There is an anti-science element right now that has a very strong political twinge to it, which is very disconcerting."
"I hope that when we get out of this, people will look back and realize we don’t ever want to do that again because it really hindered our response to this pandemic," Fauci said.
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