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Dr. Anthony Fauci called out the “crazy” threats made against him by Fox News Channel’s Jesse Watters, saying Tuesday that Watters “should be fired on the spot.”
Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease doctor, responded in an appearance on CNN’s “New Day” to comments Watters made over the weekend to the conservative, pro-Trump youth group Turning Point USA.
Watters, a conservative provocateur, told the group to “ambush” Fauci in the streets and to record a rhetorical “kill shot.”
“That’s horrible. I mean, that is such a reflection of the craziness that goes on in society,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The only thing that I have ever done throughout these two years is to encourage people to practice good public health practices, to get vaccinated, to be careful in public settings, to wear a mask, and for that you have some guy out there saying that people should be giving me a kill shot, to ambush me?”
In his remarks to the far-right youth group, Watters appeared to link Fauci to wild conspiracy theories that connect him to allegations of biowarfare.
“Now you’re going for the kill shot. The kill shot with an ambush [is] deadly, because he doesn’t see it coming,” Watters told the crowd.
“This is when you say: ‘Dr. Fauci, you funded risky research at a sloppy Chinese lab. The same lab that sprung this pandemic on the world. You know why people don’t trust you, don’t you?’ Boom, he is dead! He is dead! He’s done!”
The CNN interviewer declined to play Watters’ comments, fearing they could incite violence.
Fauci said: “I mean, what kind of craziness is there in society these days? That’s awful that he said that. And he’s going to go, very likely, unaccountable. I mean, whatever network he’s on is not going to do anything. … I mean, that’s crazy. The guy should be fired on the spot.”
A Fox News Channel representative made good on Fauci’s prediction, defending Watters’ incendiary language.
“Based on watching the full clip and reading the entire transcript, it’s more than clear that Jesse Watters was using a metaphor for asking hard-hitting questions to Dr. Fauci about gain-of-function research and his words have been twisted completely out of context,” Fox News said in a statement Tuesday.
Fauci has become a reviled figure among far-right activists who view him as a symbol of federal efforts to control the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 810,000 people in the U.S.
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
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