Republicans are feuding over Anthony Fauci, debating whether to praise the nation’s top infectious disease expert for his advice on fighting the coronavirus or deride him as an obstacle to President Donald Trump’s campaign to reopen the U.S. economy.
It’s a debate that has Representative Liz Cheney defending Fauci as “one of the finest public servants we have ever had.”
It started Tuesday when Fauci gave the Senate Health Committee a stark warning that premature moves to lift restrictions that have kept millions of workers at home and businesses closed create a “real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control.”
Most senators of both parties treated the 79-year-old director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases with respect, even as Republicans tended to advance Trump’s counterargument that “we’ve prevailed” in ramping up testing and it’s time to reopen the country.
The exception to the deference was GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who tested positive earlier in the coronavirus outbreak and lectured Fauci that he’s not “the end-all” in decisions on the pandemic.
That set off the Republican debate over Fauci.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has criticized Fauci at times in the past, told reporters after Tuesday’s hearing that he has “earned my trust” and that “I still consider him to be the gold standard.”
Hours later, Cheney of Wyoming, who heads the House Republican Conference, tweeted that Fauci “is not a partisan. His only interest is saving lives. We need his expertise and his judgment to defeat this virus. All Americans should be thanking him. Every day.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson, one of Trump’s favorite commentators, chimed in Tuesday night, saying of Fauci, “He is not, and no one is, the one person who should be in charge when it comes to making long-term recommendations. This guy, Fauci, may be even more off-base than your average epidemiologist.”
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