Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) hammered White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Tuesday, accusing the nation’s preeminent infectious disease expert of dealing “a lot of damage” to the country and Americans’ livelihoods with his approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think he’s done a lot of damage,” DeSantis said on “Fox & Friends.” “I think he should have been gone long ago. And if you think about what he’s done with his arrogance, that’s part of the reason why he’s advocated policies that have been so destructive. He thinks people who disagree with him are somehow beneath him.”
DeSantis described Fauci as the “driving force” behind a laundry list of policies that the Florida governor has denounced, including masking requirements for schoolchildren and restrictions that “cost people jobs” and “destroyed” businesses.
DeSantis’s remarks came a day after Fauci announced that he would leave government service in December after more than five decades as a physician for the National Institutes of Health.
It was Fauci’s leadership of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, however, that made him a household name as the nation was swept up by the pandemic.
Throughout the outbreak, Fauci acted as a public face for the federal response to the pandemic, often giving updates and advice in a straightforward style.
While that role earned him the respect of many Americans, it also made him the target of criticism, especially from conservatives like DeSantis, who frequently bucked the guidance of public health experts and officials and mocked Fauci for the federal government’s shifting policies and advice on COVID-19.
Fauci’s allies and many public health experts have been quick to note that little was known about the coronavirus when it first emerged and that policies changed over time as more information emerged on the virus and its effects.
But on “Fox & Friends,” DeSantis knocked Fauci for refusing “to admit he was wrong” when it became clear that some federal policy recommendations “don’t work.”
“When it just came out, it was a novel thing, there was a lot of information that people needed,” DeSantis said. “So just admit that some of the things you said were wrong. And he will not do that.”
But in some ways, DeSantis could credit Fauci with his political rise. The Florida governor rose to conservative stardom during the COVID-19 pandemic by antagonizing public health officials, including Fauci, and casting himself as a bulwark against federal overreach.
That reputation has helped land the Florida governor on the list of prospective 2024 Republican presidential candidates. And while DeSantis has said that he’s focused only on winning reelection this year, he’s repeatedly stoked speculation that he has ambitions far beyond his home state.
In recent days, he’s stumped for Republican candidates in key battleground states, most recently for Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and GOP Senate hopeful J.D. Vance in Ohio.
In his interview on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, DeSantis suggested that Republicans shouldn’t back away from their focus on Fauci despite his plans to leave federal service this year.
“I hope if Republicans take control that they will get to the bottom of everything, from the origins of COVID to all the manifest failures of the public health establishment, particularly Dr. Anthony Fauci,” he said.