Dr. Anthony Fauci (Left) and Senator Rand Paul spar during a Senate health hearing on Tuesday.
Top US scientist Anthony Fauci has accused a vaccine skeptic Republican senator of spreading misinformation which has provoked threats of violence against him and his family while distracting the Americans from the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fauci made the accusations on Tuesday in unusually emotional congressional testimony, where Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walenksy, and acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) head Janet Woodcock were also present to testify before the Senate about the pandemic.
During the testimony, Senator Rand Paul, who has railed against vaccine mandates and refused to get vaccinated, blamed Fauci for school closures and conflating emails purportedly about the origins of the virus, among other issues.
Paul said Fauci was the "lead architect" of the countryís Covid response, blaming him for the nearly 450,000 deaths that occurred since Joe Biden took office.
The vast majority of the infected people were unvaccinated, and health officials including Fauci have consistently advocated for vaccines.
"You personally attack me, with absolutely not a shred of evidence of anything you say. So I would like to make something clear to the committee: Youíre doing this for political reasons," said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
He added the attacks distracted from the crucial job of tackling the pandemic, and made him a personal target for violence.
"All of a sudden that kindles the crazies out there, and I have life threats upon my life, harassment of my family, and my children with obscene phone calls."
Fauci recalled that a man was arrested on his way from California to the capital Washington in late December. The man said he wanted to kill Fauci, due to what he said was blood on the scientistsí hands.
He was armed with an AR-15 assault weapon and multiple rounds of ammunition.
Fauci had in his hands a printout from Paulís website that showed the banner "Fire Dr Fauci" next to an invitation to donate to the Republicanís campaign.
"You are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain," he added.
Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant increased dramatically in the US, sending hospitalizations to an all-time high of 145,982, exceeding a previous record of around 142,000 in January 2021.
The United States is the worldís hardest-hit country, with over 840,000 deaths.