Rand Paul Just Picked a Fight With Anthony Fauci. It Didn’t Go Well.

Win McNamee/AP

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

During a hearing before the Senate health committee on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci—the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—had a heated exchange with Sen. Rand Paul. The back-and-forth came when the Kentucky Republican argued that it would be a “huge mistake” not to reopen the schools in the fall and pointedly criticized Fauci. “As much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end-all,” Paul said. “I don’t think you’re the one person that gets to make a decision.” Paul also downplayed the dangers of reopening the US economy and blasted scientists for making “wrong prediction, after wrong prediction, after wrong prediction.”

“We’re opening up a lot of economies around the US, and I hope that people who are predicting doom and gloom, and saying, ‘Oh, we can’t do this, there’s going to be a surge,’ will admit that they were wrong if there isn’t a surge,” Paul said. “Because I think that’s what’s going to happen.” He added that “outside of New England, we’ve had a relatively benign course for this virus nationwide.”

Paul noted that death rates from COVID-19 among children have been extremely low and went on to argue that local authorities should decide on a case-by-case basis whether to open schools in the fall. “If we keep kids out of school for another year, what’s going to happen is that poor and underprivileged kids who don’t have a parent that’s able to teach them at home are not going to learn for a full year…I think it’s a huge mistake if we don’t open the schools in the fall.”

In his response to Paul, Fauci—who had not actually asserted that schools should not open in the fall—said, “I have never made myself out to be the ‘end-all’ and only voice in this. I’m a scientist, a physician, and a public health official. I give advice according to the best scientific evidence…I don’t give advice about economic things. I don’t give advice about anything other than public health.”

Fauci also addressed Paul’s assertions about the risks to children. “We don’t know everything about this virus,” he said. “And we really better be very careful, particularly when it comes to children. Because the more and more we learn, we’re seeing things about what this virus can do that we didn’t see from the studies in China or Europe.” For instance, a small number of children have shown symptoms of a mysterious inflammatory syndrome thought to be linked to COVID-19.

“You’re right in the numbers that children, in general, do much, much better than adults and the elderly and particularly those with underlying conditions,” Fauci concluded. “But I am very careful, and hopefully, humble in knowing that I don’t know everything about this disease.”

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate