Dr. Anthony Fauci responded to Elon Musk‘s tweet calling for the government to prosecute the now-retired health official over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fauci, who served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for a nearly four-decade span that included the COVID-19 pandemic, has come under scrutiny from critics, including Twitter CEO Musk and several high-profile Republicans over his handling of the virus, which killed more than one million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Critics have taken issue with Fauci’s approach to the pandemic, slamming his support for partial shutdowns implemented to prevent the virus’ spread but have been attributed to economic woes. Others have raised concerns his stance on the origins of the COVID-19 virus, which remain disputed, and his support for the vaccination, which has been proven to be effective at preventing serious illness.
Fauci’s supporters, on the other hand, say he successfully navigated the United States through the deadly pandemic, praising his support for vaccines as saving lives and preventing the pandemic from worsening.
During a CNN appearance on Saturday, Fauci responded to Musk’s December tweet, in which he wrote: “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” without explaining specifically why he should be prosecuted. Fauci, who retired at the end of 2022, hit back at Musk and other critics from the right over these prosecution calls.
“There’s no response to that craziness. Prosecute me for what? What are they talking about? I wish I could figure out what the heck they’re talking about. I think they’re just going off the deep end,” Fauci said. “It just doesn’t make any sense to say something like that, and it actually is irresponsible.”
He said GOP outrage has a “difficult” and “deleterious” effect on his family.
“I mean, they don’t like to have me getting death threats all the time. Every time someone gets up and spouts some nonsense that’s misinformation, disinformation and outright lies, somebody somewhere decides they want to do harm to me and or my family,” he said. “That’s the part of it that is really unfortunate.”
Fauci added: “The rest of it is just insanity, the things they’re saying. But it does have a negative effect when people take it seriously and take it out on you and your family.”
He said these continuing death threats are why he “still has to have protection.”
Conservatives continue to push for Fauci’s prosecution. Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said Fauci would go to jail under any “sane system” during a discussion at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) earlier this month.
“There has been no person who has done more to destroy trust in the scientific and medical community than Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told millions of Americans lies willingly, knowingly, glibly, supremely arrogantly,” he said. “Should there be accountability? In any sane system he would be prosecuted for lying under oath, and he would go to jail for lying under oath to Congress.”
Newsweek reached out to Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX press offices by email for comment.