Dr. Anthony Fauci left his post as the government’s top infectious disease expert last week, but that hasn’t stopped the attacks from high-profile critics like Twitter owner Elon Musk. On Sunday, Musk tweeted that this week he’d release the so-called “Fauci Files,” thought to be internal Twitter documents, though their content and relevance is unclear.
“I have no idea what [Musk]’s talking about. I mean, there’s a lot of misinformation, conspiracy theories and disinformation going on,” Fauci said. “I have nothing to say to him. I don’t understand what he’s doing. It’s just unfortunate.”
In December, Musk tweeted “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci” and he suggested he had unearthed messages exchanged between Twitter executives and government health officials that related to their handling of the pandemic.
“I don’t have a clue of what he’s talking about,” Fauci told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett on this week’s episode of “The Takeout.” The interview was Fauci’s first since leaving his government post.
House Republicans, who will have subpoena power in the new Congress, have said they want to investigate the Biden administration’s handling of the pandemic, and that means Fauci, a lightning rod for conservatives, is almost certain to be called to testify.
“I would willingly do that without any problem,” Fauci said, adding that he plans to retain legal counsel. “But I have nothing to hide. I could defend everything I’ve done.”
Fauci said he and his family continue to receive death threats. He still has a protective detail, provided by the U.S. Marshals at taxpayer expense.
“I’d hate to think for the rest of my life that I was going to have people who were crazy enough to want to harm me because I have done things that have saved millions of lives. That’s kind of — how do you get your arms around that?” he said.
Fauci is concerned about the latest COVID subvariant, XBB 1.5, that now accounts for 41% of diagnosed cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public health advocates fear case counts could increase rapidly because the subvariant is highly contagious and people are spending more time inside during wintertime.
“We’re going to see an uptick in infections. What we’re also seeing is a bit of an uptick in hospitalizations,” Fauci said. He acknowledged that COVID fatigue has set in among many Americans but urged people to get vaccinated and boosted.
Cases in China have surged after its government relaxed the country’s stringent COVID protocols. Fauci said an estimated quarter billion people may have been infected in December alone, but the precise figures are difficult to pin down because the Chinese government is “very opaque” when it comes to sharing data.
Asked whether there should be travel restrictions for Americans seeking to visit China, Fauci said, “I think that there certainly is a place for that,” but he added that he would leave travel recommendations to the State Department.
Executive producer: Arden Farhi
Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin
Show email: [email protected]