Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert and a chief proponent of Covid vaccines, sharply criticized the “extreme” ideological divide that he said has led to a disproportionate amount of coronavirus deaths among Republicans compared to Democrats.
In an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt scheduled to air Wednesday night, Fauci said he thought political viewpoints had a measurable effect on the number of people who could have been saved by the coronavirus vaccine.
“I mean, differences in ideology are healthy. It’s part of our democracy, part of what makes our country great. But when they get so extreme that it prevents you from doing something that’s life saving, that is really awful,” he said.
Watch the full interview on “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. CT.
Several studies have found that Covid deaths are unevenly distributed among Republicans and Democrats. One study, published in September by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that so-called excess death rates, or deaths elevated beyond what is expected based on historical trends, were 76% higher in Florida and Ohio among Republicans than Democrats from March 2020 to December 2021.
“The degree of divisiveness in this country right now has really led to such a polarization that it has interfered with an adequate science-based public health response,” Fauci, who was a member of former President Donald Trump’s Covid task force, told NBC News.
“I mean, it’s just extraordinary that you have under-vaccination in red states, and good levels of vaccination in blue states, which gets translated into a disproportionate amount of suffering and death among Republicans compared to Democrats,” he added. “That’s completely crazy.”
In a clip released Wednesday morning, Fauci was asked if he regretted how he handled congressional hearings in which he was personally attacked — which included by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who frequently criticized Fauci’s handling of the pandemic.
“I think 99.9% of the time, I have been my usual self, which is very calm and measured,” Fauci said. “The only time I really got upset was when Senator Paul, totally inappropriately, on national TV, that was following that hearing, accused me of being responsible for the death of 5 million people. Now with all due respect, I’m not going to take that from anybody, including a senator. … When you start off by, you know, being accusatory based on no evidence whatsoever, and making a slanderous comment, that that has to go answered, you can’t let that go unanswered.”
Fauci announced in August that, at the end of the year, he would leave his post at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he has directed since 1984, and step down as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser.
Rebecca Shabad contributed.