(The Hill) – Former White House pandemic chief Anthony Fauci said disparaging comments like those from presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) force him to have a security detail amid threats on his life.
DeSantis and other Republicans have repeatedly attacked Fauci — who served in the Trump and Biden administrations — over pandemic policies including mask mandates and the COVID vaccine.
“I’m the one that had to, in an uncomfortable way… disagree with the President of the United States. That was very painful for me… but I felt that in order to just maintain my own personal professional integrity and responsibility to the American public that I had to say it like it was and I had to do it publicly,” Fauci said in an MSNBC interview Thursday.
“That triggered a degree of negativity towards me on the part of the far-right,” he said.
Host Mehdi Hasan played a clip of DeSantis at a rally last year in which he says, “someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac,” referencing Fauci.
Attacks like that encourage actual acts of violence, Fauci said.
“Somebody that doesn’t know anything about me, who’s crazy, says, ‘Wow, I’m going to go get that person’ or that person should be killed or that person should be prosecuted. That’s the reason I have to have security,” he said.
“Gov. DeSantis doesn’t personally want to hurt me. He’s triggering people who are bad and really want to hurt people. That’s the problem,” Fauci added.
Criticisms of the Trump and Biden administrations’ COVID response have been a sizable part of DeSantis’ presidential campaign, including digs at Fauci. The governor and presidential hopeful frequently claims that Florida chose “freedom over Fauci-ism,” in one of his campaign trail catchphrases.
The Hill has reached out to the DeSantis campaign for comment.