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If Criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci Is a Hate Crime, I Plead Guilty--And I'll Do It Again

Greg Nash/Pool via AP

If arrogance and obsequiousness came in a bottle, Peter J. Hotez, MD, Ph.D., would be chugging it by the gallon. In a gallant defense of Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Peter Daszak, Hotez says that criticizing them or any other scientist with whom he agrees is a hate crime:

We should look at expanded protection mechanisms for scientists currently targeted by far-right extremism in the United States. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) has introduced a bill known as the Scientific Integrity Act of 2021 (H.R. 849) to protect US Government scientists from political interference, but this needs to be extended for scientists at private research universities and institutes. Still another possibility is to extend federal hate-crime protections.

This is not a joke. Hotez’s diatribe is published on PLOS Biology, a peer-reviewed open-access journal. As the political left stomps its feet about what it characterizes as the politicization of science and submits a bill to stop it, here is how Hotez begins his rant:

There is a troubling new expansion of antiscience aggression in the United States. It’s arising from far-right extremism, including some elected members of the US Congress and conservative news outlets that target prominent biological scientists fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

His statement would be funny if it were not both tragic and frightening. Like many scientists within our research institutions, Hotez is bought and paid for. He has received at least one grant from the NIH every year since 1992. The NIH is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, with an annual budget of $32 billion to invest. Hotez’s work centers on vaccines and tropical diseases, so his funding will come from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the division Fauci leads.

So his obsequiousness is easy to explain. His arrogance is on full display. Early in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, Hotez objected to the rapid process, noting the failure of previous vaccines for coronaviruses:

“I understand the importance of accelerating timelines for vaccines in general, but from everything I know, this is not the vaccine to be doing it with,” Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told Reuters.

Hotez worked on development of a vaccine for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), the coronavirus behind a major 2003 outbreak, and found that some vaccinated animals developed more severe disease compared with unvaccinated animals when they were exposed to the virus.

“There is a risk of immune enhancement,” said Hotez. “The way you reduce that risk is first you show it does not occur in laboratory animals.”

Now, anyone questioning vaccine efficacy, questioning the unknowns about long-term effects, or expressing concern about infections among the vaccinated is an anti-vaxxer, according to Hotez. In an appearance on MSNBC, he claimed that this criticism is now a feature of “far right-wing extremism.” His assertion is in search of support since the “Dirty Dozen” of vaccine misinformation, according to the report the White House used, has precisely one Trump supporter in it.

Related: Who Are the COVID-19 Misinformation ‘Dirty Dozen’ WH Wants to Silence?

Further, many of those currently expressing concern about the vaccines are doctors who don’t express political points of view, such as Hotez’s colleague at Baylor University, Dr. Peter McCullough. Others include evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein, a committed progressive, and journalist Alex Berenson, who identifies as left of center. Hotez’s boogeyman is Tucker Carlson, who provides some of these individuals a platform to express their concerns.

Hotez points out the criticism coming from elected Republicans. Marjorie Tayor Greene (R-Ga.) is sponsoring a “Fire Fauci” bill. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has made a legitimate issue of the NIH funding gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) have also criticized Dr. Fauci regarding the Wuhan lab funding and his agency’s failure to provide outpatient therapeutics that are widely available.

On Tuesday, a report on the origin of COVID-19 came out of the Republican caucus on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. As my colleague Rick Moran wrote:

The report minces no words in describing its conclusion: “The preponderance of evidence suggests SARS-CoV-2 was accidentally released from a Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory sometime prior to September 12, 2019. The virus, or the viral sequence that was genetically manipulated, was likely collected in a cave in Yunnan province, PRC, between 2012 and 2015. Researchers at the WIV, officials within the [Chinese Communist Party], and potentially American citizens directly engaged in efforts to obfuscate information related to the origins of the virus and to suppress public debate of a possible lab leak. It is incumbent on these parties to respond to the issues raised herein and provide clarity and any exonerating evidence as soon as possible. Until that time, it must be assumed General Secretary Xi and the Chinese Communist Party, prioritizes preserving the Party over the lives of its own people and those around the global suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe confirmed these findings in an op-ed on Monday and an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight. With his access to sensitive intelligence related to the pandemic, he says the lab-leak origin is not merely a possibility. It is a probability, moving very close to a certainty.

Yet, Hotez says all criticisms are related to an anti-science movement born out of America First on the right. This is where he goes off the deep end. Apparently, wanting border security and a strong military, and viewing China as an economic and military threat makes you anti-science and an authoritarian. That’s pretty funny since President Trump never called for censorship of scientific inquiry or mandatory vaccination, or ever considered national mandates to manage the pandemic. But the left and Hotez want you to believe he was an authoritarian.

Hotez alludes to the Hoover Institution and implies that health experts such as Dr. Jay Battacharya and Dr. Scott Atlas are part of a far-right-leaning think tank. Then he references “intellectuals on the dark web.” I think he meant the Intellectual Dark Web, whose only committed conservative is Ben Shapiro.

The truth is criticism of Fauci and the scientific institutions of the bureaucracy won’t come from Democrats. They relied on Fauci’s proclamations to change election processes nationwide as he violated every fundamental principle of public health.

Instead of reducing panic, Fauci inflamed it. Rather than consider the full ramifications of his recommendations on Americans’ physical and mental health, Fauci focused only on COVID-19 transmission he called “cases.” These were actually positive tests that often indicated no illness at all. They still are. Yet, government health experts are telling Americans to wear masks again, including at home if they have unvaccinated children. This is insane.

Now, we live in a country where members of the media and a sizable portion of the population believe COVID-19 can be eliminated. No scientist thinks this, but Fauci will not correct the record. Instead, he recommends mitigation strategies that didn’t work before for a virus that is no longer a significant severe illness or death risk. None of this is based on science, and Fauci should be roundly criticized for it. Call it a “hate crime.” I’ll plead guilty, and I am not going to stop.