Republicans are the kind of people who would set your house on fire while criticizing the fire department. Because that’s what they’re doing when they conflate vaccine hesitancy and anti-mask balderdash with “freedom,” while calling Dr. Fauci a “fascist.”
Republicans have consistently used Dr. Anthony Fauci as one of their handful of scapegoats to distract from their own incompetence. For example, early in the pandemic Dr. Fauci suggested that, because of the shortage in surgical masks in the United States, wearing masks was not a priority. Ever since Republicans have excoriated Dr. Fauci for being an inconsistent hypocrite.
The reason you hear this same tired and spurious complaint in the otherwise less specific litany of Republican hate against Dr. Fauci is because up until recently it was all they had. Now Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has come up with a new “complaint,” and it’s taking the Republican world of anti-Fauci rhetoric by storm. “Fauci did the exact same thing with AIDS,” Johnson griped, “He overhyped it. He created all kinds of fear saying it could affect the entire population when it couldn’t, and he’s using the exact same playbook with Covid.”
First a little history. During the early days of the AIDS crisis of the early to middle 1980s, Republican president Ronald Reagan all but ignored it. For one thing Reagan was too busy fighting Legionnaires’ disease, a baffling but incredibly rare illness that affected elderly white guys. Reagan had no time for a deadly disease like AIDS that was killing gay men by the tens of thousands.
Meanwhile Dr. Anthony Fauci worked quietly but effectively against the spread of AIDS. So effective was Dr. Fauci’s work in combating AIDS in fact that President George W. Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for it.
AIDS eventually killed over 750,000 Americans and 36 million people worldwide. Covid, on the other hand, has killed over 780,000 Americans and more than five million people worldwide. Tell me, Senator Johnson, how do you “overhype” that? How do you overhype the largest mass casualty event in American history? And how does a Republican — of all people — do anything but hide his face in shame when either AIDS or Covid come up as a topic?
But there’s a more sinister and deadly consequence to Ron Johnson’s irrational and irresponsible rhetoric. As with their insouciant politicalization of global warming, Johnson and Republicans like him are playing politics with our very existence as a species. The deadly game of confusing people and warping the Coronavirus pandemic into another partisan gripe could end in tragedy for the human race. There is nothing stopping the virus from mutating into something worse (and many scientists maintain it already has), and Johnson and Republicans just like him are doing their level best to provide the disease with its very own perfect human Petri dish.
Dr. Fauci constantly pleads with people to wash their hands, wear masks, maintain social distancing and, above all, get vaccinated. For his trouble he’s now getting death threats from Republicans as a routine and has had to employ bodyguards. Only a Republican jerk like Ron Johnson, a member of the party that calls itself “pro-life,” could find fault with a hero like Dr. Anthony Fauci. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.