In a departure from the GOP’s largely critical rhetoric about Dr. Anthony Fauci, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) defended the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hailing him a “reliable witness.”
Speaking with reporters on Monday, the senator was asked if he still had “confidence in” Fauci’s abilities as head of the COVID-19 effort.
“Do you still have confidence in Dr. Fauci as you said several months ago?” the reporter asked.
“I think he’s the principal person we’ve relied on for the last couple of years. That’s become somewhat controversial, I gather, but we have to take advice from somebody, and for myself, looking at his history and background, he’s the most reliable witness I’ve seen,” McConnell responded.
Minority Leader McConnell expresses confidence in Dr. Fauci: "I think he's the principal person we've relied on the last couple of years, that's become somewhat controversial, I gather. But, we have to take advice from somebody and…he's the most reliable witness I've seen." pic.twitter.com/wZvoDJCvZ1
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 5, 2021
McConnell’s “confidence” in Dr. Fauci is markedly different from Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) assessment of Fauci; Paul has actively criticized the expert both publicly and to his face. In March, for instance, Paul accused Fauci of partaking in mask-wearing theater after having received the highly effective vaccine.
“Given that no scientific studies have shown significant numbers of reinfections of patients previously infected or previously vaccinated, what specific studies do you cite to argue the public should be wearing masks well into 2022?” asked Paul during a Senate hearing.
“I’m not sure I understand the connection of what you’re saying about masks and reinfection,” Fauci replied. “We’re talking about people who have never been infected before.”
“You’re telling everybody to wear a mask whether they’ve had an infection or a vaccine,” Paul interjected. “What I’m saying is they have immunity and everybody agrees they have immunity. What studies do you have that people that’ve had the vaccine or had the infection are spreading the infection? If we’re not spreading the infection, isn’t it just theater?”
“No, it’s not,” Fauci shot back.
After Fauci argued that his position on masks is about “variants,” Paul asked him to cite a single study in the United States showing reinfection and hospitalization after vaccination; Fauci could not cite one. Paul, a physician, concluded that mask-wearing after vaccination was simple theater:
You’ve been vaccinated and you parade around in two masks for show. You can’t get it again. There’s virtually 0% chance you’re gonna get it, and yet you’re telling people that have had the vaccine, that have immunity — you’re defying everything we know about immunity by telling people to wear masks that have been vaccinated. Instead you should be saying there is no science to say we’re going to have a problem from the large number of people who’ve been vaccinated. You want to get rid of vaccine hesitancy? Wearing masks after they get the vaccine? You want people to get the vaccine? Give them a reward instead of telling them that the nanny state is going to be there for three more years and you gotta wear a mask forever. People don’t want to hear it; there’s no science behind it.
“Let me state just for the record that masks are not theater. Masks are protective,” Fauci replied.
“If you have immunity they’re theater. If you already have immunity, you’re wearing a mask to give comfort to others, you’re not wearing a mask because of any science,” Paul shot back.