President Biden’s chief medical adviser pushed back against what he called “conspiracy theory” questions that were lobbed at him during a Senate hearing Tuesday morning.
“It is disconcerting, Sanjay … when you’re working 17-18 hours a day, seven days a week … And then you get there, and somebody, a senator, starts talking about things in an accusatory way that’s totally conspiracy theory,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a conversation on Clubhouse moderated by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Earlier Tuesday, Fauci sparred with Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, in a Senate Health, Education Labor and Pension Committee hearing about combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
“You want to be respectful in your answers, but they talk to you in a way that just almost doesn’t make any sense. And you kind of think they’re just playing for the cameras,” Fauci said.
Fauci had repeatedly emphasized to Paul that the NIH has not funded a controversial type of virus research at a lab in Wuhan, China.
“I was expecting something like that to happen,” Fauci said. “You just have to keep your cool, answer with the facts, with the evidence, with the data.”
During the Clubhouse chat, Fauci also reflected on an approach that has seen him through political ups and downs of service guiding the nation’s response to epidemics under seven presidents, dating back to President Ronald Reagan.
“If you are consistent, and the first thing is you have to stay completely apolitical, which is what I am, you cannot even begin to step into any ideological spaces,” Fauci said. “I’ve dealt with Republicans, I’ve dealt with Democrats, I’ve dealt with very liberal, I’ve dealt with moderates, I’ve dealt with compassionate conservatives.”
His primary approach is to “stick with the science,” Fauci said, later adding that the best advice he had heard for advising high level policymakers was to always tell the truth even if it meant not being invited back.
“The 500th time I’m going to walk into the White House, I still tell myself that, you know, I whispered to myself, you walk in here, ‘this may be the last time you walk into this place.'”