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‘How Do You Overhype That?’: Fauci Objects To Ron Johnson Claim That He Wants To Keep People Scared Of COVID
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the first U.S. case of omicron as the new variant spreads around the world. Photographer: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci objected Sunday to claims made by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) — namely that he was intentionally overhyping information about COVID-19 in an effort to keep Americans scared.

Fauci spoke with CNN anchor Jake Tapper on Sunday’s broadcast of “State of the Union,” and Tapper asked him to respond to Johnson’s claims that he was “overhyping” the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson likened to to Fauci’s response to HIV/AIDS decades earlier, saying that he had “overhyped” that as well.

“Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said this week that you have been using coronavirus to keep Americans in fear and maintain control. Take a listen,” Tapper said, rolling tape of Johnson.

“He did the exact same thing with AIDS. He overhyped it. He created all kinds of fear saying it could affect the entire population, when it couldn’t. And he is doing – using the exact same playbook with COVID,” Johnson said.

“Obviously, that’s a bizarre and false assertion. President George W. Bush gave you the Presidential Medal of Freedom because of your leadership in the AIDS crisis,” Tapper said before turning the floor over to Fauci for his response.

“You know, Jake, how do you respond to something as preposterous as that? Over hyping AIDS? It’s killed over 750,000 Americans. 36 million people worldwide. How do you overhype that? Over hyping COVID? It’s already killed 780,000 Americans and over 5 million people worldwide. So I don’t have any clue of what he is talking about,” Fauci replied.

“I don’t think he does either,” Tapper agreed.

Tapper and Fauci also discussed the continuing spread of the newest variant, known as omicron, which has now been detected in more than a dozen states and several dozen countries worldwide.

“Let’s start with the omicron variant. Coronavirus cases in South Africa quadrupled in four days this week. Reportedly spreading twice as quickly as delta. But the South African president said overnight that hospitalizations from omicron are not increasing at an alarming rate,” Tapper began. “Have you seen evidence that hospitalizations or deaths were rising, not just cases? What does this suggest to you about this new variant?”

Fauci, noting that officials in South Africa had been transparent and forthcoming with all the information they had gathered, said that the consensus appeared to be that omicron would spread faster than previous variants but had thus far only been connected to milder symptoms in those who were infected.

“Thus far, though it’s too early to really make any definitive statements about it, thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it. But we really gotta be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or really doesn’t cause any severe illness comparable to delta. But thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity. But again, you have to hold judgment until we get more experience,” Fauci replied.

Fauci went on to note that the travel bans, put in place to restrict travel to the United States from several South African nations, had been a temporary measure to buy scientists more time to study omicron. “Hopefully, we will lift that ban within a reasonable period of time. We all feel very badly about the hardship that that might have put upon not only South Africa but the other african countries. For that reason, on a daily basis, we are re-evaluating that policy,” he said.

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