The White House on Monday condemned billionaire Elon Musk’s call for Anthony Fauci, the US infectious disease expert who is a hate figure for many on the right, to be prosecuted over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These are incredibly dangerous, these personal attacks that we are seeing,” said White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre, in response to the weekend tweet by Musk that subsequently went viral.
“They are disgusting and they are divorced from reality,” she said.
Musk, the owner of Twitter, took to the site Sunday to urge punishment for Fauci, who led the government’s approach to the pandemic when it hit the country in early 2020.
“My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” Musk said, tauntingly playing on the growing practice for people to indicate their preferred gender pronouns.
Musk also posted a meme showing Fauci telling US President Joe Biden, “Just one more lockdown, my king,” in apparent criticism of the coronavirus mitigation measures initially taken in parts of the country in the first year of the pandemic.
Conservatives including former president Donald Trump have made Fauci a focus of their criticisms of the government campaign to battle Covid, and he has faced death threats and had a security team assigned to protect him.
“These personal attacks that we’ve been seeing are dangerous on Dr. Fauci and other public health professionals as well,” said Jean-Pierre.
“Dr. Fauci has served under seven Republican and Democratic presidents. We cannot forget that…. His work on infectious disease from HIV Aids to COVID has saved countless lives,” she said.
“We are fortunate, I should say, that he has devoted his career and his life and his exceptional talent to America’s public health.”
Republican lawmakers have pledged to grill Fauci when they take control of the House of Representatives in January, after locking horns repeatedly with the top immunologist over COVID vaccines, mask mandates, and other pandemic-related issues.
Fauci, 81, is due to step down this month from his roles in government as Biden’s chief medical advisor, as well as director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, which he has headed since 1984.
In what was likely his final White House appearance in November, Fauci slammed the proliferation of bad health advice online and said the most difficult thing he had to deal with while helming America’s fight against Covid was the country’s polarization along political lines.