Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser, on Sunday expressed his dismay when asked about audience members at the Conservative Political Action Conference cheering on COVID-19 vaccine refusal.
Appearing on CNN, Fauci noted the jarring rates of vaccine hesitancy in red states and argued that getting vaccinated shouldn’t be seen as a political issue.
“It’s a public health issue. It doesn’t matter who you are. The virus doesn’t know whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican or an independent. For sure, we know that,” Fauci said. “And yet there is that divide of people wanting to get vaccinated and not wanting to get vaccinated, which is really unfortunate, because it’s losing lives.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper then pressed Fauci on his response to Alex Berenson — a former New York Times reporter who regularly appears on Fox News to peddle misleading claims on COVID-19 vaccines — gleefully touting to the CPAC crowd that the federal government can’t “sucker 90 percent of the population” into getting inoculated against the infectious disease that has killed more than 600,000 Americans.
Fauci replied that he finds the CPAC crowd’s reaction to Berenson’s remarks “horrifying.”
“I mean, they are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives,” Fauci said. “I mean, if you just unpack that for a second, Jake, it’s almost frightening to say, hey, guess what, we don’t want you to do something to save your life. Yay. Everybody starts screaming and clapping.”
“I just don’t get that. And I don’t think that anybody who is thinking clearly can get that. What is that all about? I don’t understand that,” Fauci said.
Berenson’s remarks at CPAC come a week after the country failed to meet President Biden’s vaccination goal of 70% by July 4.
Recent polls have shown the stark divide on vaccine hesitancy, with Republicans falling significantly behind on getting vaccinated compared to Democrats. According to a Washington Post poll last week, 93 percent of Democrats say they’ve either received a vaccine or plan to, while just 49 percent of Republicans say the same.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who battled polio as a child, has repeatedly decried COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, especially among supporters of former President Trump.
Last April, McConnell urged Republican hesitant to get vaccinated to put aside its reservations so that the public can move on from the pandemic.
“I’m a Republican man and I want to say to everyone, we need to take this vaccine,” McConnell said during a press conference in Lexington, Kentucky. “These reservations need to be put aside because the only way, I think, we get to finally put this pandemic in the rearview mirror is with herd immunity.”
Watch Fauci’s remarks below:
Jake Tapper asks Dr. Anthony Fauci to react to the CPAC Texas crowd cheering that the government has been unable to reach its vaccine goals so far.
Fauci: "It’s horrifying… I just don’t get that. I mean, and I don’t think that anybody who is thinking clearly can get that." pic.twitter.com/4nY7CMor5i
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 11, 2021