The Fauci-Paul show returned to Congress on Wednesday, when the world-renowned immunologist traded blows with his libertarian tormentor in a contest that did not even mention monkeypox – the subject that had brought them to the Senate hearing.
And once again Fauci bested him with a factcheck and a quip. ‘I have never ever denied fundamental immunology,’ he said.
‘In fact, I wrote the chapter in the textbook of medicine on fundamental immunology.’
The two have clashed at hearing after hearing, but the end of the Fauci-Paul show is nearing. The 81-year-old has announced he will retire from government service in December.
The only chance of reruns is if Republicans take back the House or Senate and launch investigations into Fauci and his handling of the pandemic.
The subject before the Senate health committee on Wednesday was ‘stopping the spread of monkeypox: Examining the federal response.’
But it could have been ‘five easy steps to cure cancer,’ for all Paul cared, as he continued his quest for a pandemic gotcha moment with President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser, and the public face of the country’s pandemic response.
Sen. Rand Paul used a Senate hearing into the monkeypox emergency to grill Dr. Anthony Fauci over the COVID-19 pandemic response, bringing up a 2004 interview about flu
Fauci gave as good as he got and must be looking forward to retirement in December
He put a tablet beside his microphone and played an old clip of Fauci answering a question on a TV show about whether someone with flu still needed a flu shot.
‘Well no,’ responded Fauci in the clip from 2004.
‘If she got the flu for 14 days, she’s as protected as anybody can be because the best vaccination is to get infected yourself.’
Aha, said Paul. So why isn’t this being taken into account when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, he wondered.
‘This is an ongoing question and we’ve heard evolving opinions from you. Currently, antibody surveys show that 80percent of children and approximately 80 percent of children have had COVID,’ he said.
‘And yet there are no guidelines coming from you or anybody in the government to take into account their naturally acquired immunity.’
Mortality for COVID is now similar to flu, he added.
Paul blew up an image of Fauci from the 2004 interview as he tried to show that he had been inconsistent in his stance on vaccination, previous infection and antibodies
But Fauci came with a Reuters fact check, concluding that his stance was consistent – and mic drops: ‘In fact, I wrote the chapter in the textbook of medicine on fundamental immunology’
‘So when we look at this, we wonder – you know – why you seem to really embrace basic immunology back in 2004 and how you, or why you, seem to reject it now,’ he asked.
Fauci replied with a mix of exasperation and a Reuters factcheck.
‘Well, I don’t reject basic immunology, senator, and I have never denied that there is importance of the protection following infection,’ he said.
‘However, as we have said many times and as has been validated by the authorization of [Federal Drug Administration] through their committee and the recommendation by the CDC through their committee, that a vaccination following infection gives an added extra boost.’
Plus, he said, the video was taken out of context. He was responding to a question about someone who had suffered a bad reaction to a flu shot – not a question about the general population.
‘As a matter of fact Reuters fact check, looked at that and said: Fauci’s 2004 comments do not contradict his pandemic stance,’ he said.
Paul was not about to let that get in the way of his plan of attack. He had come prepared with a prop: A giant pic of Fauci from the interview, with his words.
‘Actually, words don’t lie,’ said the elected politician.
‘If you look at the words behind me, we can go with them a little bit at a time. “She doesn’t need it because the most potent fascination is getting infected yourself.”‘
Yes, said Fauci. ‘It is true. It is true, senator, it is a very potent way to protect,’ he said.
Paul responded by (ignoring the diligence of Reuters) accusing Fauci of shifting position and causing vaccine hesitancy by playing down the value of previous infection.
Fauci is leaving his role in the Biden administration before Biden’s term is up, prompting suspicion from across the aisle and the threat of congressional investigations
Dr. Anthony Fauci became a household name during the covid pandemic and he clashed repeatedly with then President Donald Trump; above Trump and Fauci at the White House in March 2020
‘You’re ignoring a vaccine basically,’ he said.
‘So you’re ignoring a variable.
‘You decry vaccine hesitancy. It’s coming from the gobbledygook that you give us.
‘You’re not paying attention to the science. The very basic science is that previous infection provide the level of immunity
‘If you ignore that in your studies, if you don’t present that in your committees you’re not being truthful or honest with us.’
Then Fauci delivered what might have been a mic-drop moment, were it not for the fact that both combatants had microphones and dropping one would have left Paul to speak on unchallenged.
‘Senator, if I might respond,’ he said. ‘I have never. ever denied fundamental immunology. In fact, I wrote the chapter in the textbook of medicine on fundamental immunology.’
Paul carried on for a while, until Sen. Bob Casey, who was chairing the hearing and presumably remembered it had something to do with monkeypox, stepped in.
‘We’re gonna, we’re gonna move on. We’re over time. Senator Paul, you’re over,’ he said. ‘Everyone’s over a little bit.’
That left one last little bit of business. Casey ruled Paul’s video clip ‘out of order’ – just as all videos are.