As Dr. Anthony Fauci testified on the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, he was caught on hot mic moment calling a senator a "moron." The chief medical adviser to the president mumbled to himself after Senator Roger Marshall questioned him about his finances.
Marshall said that according to Forbes, Fauci had an annual salary of $434,000 in 2020. He asked if Fauci would make his finances public — but as a government employee, Fauci's financial information is already publicly available.
Fauci, who was testifying alongside Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock and others, said he didn't know why Marshall was asking the question, since his salary has been public for 37 years or so and "all you have to do is ask for it."
Marshall asked Fauci if he is "willing to submit to Congress a financial disclosure that includes your past and current investments."
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the names, titles and salaries of all civilian government employees are considered public information. Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, assured Marshall his financial records were already available to the public. The Ethics in Government Act also requires public financial disclosure by senior U.S. government officials.
"You're so misinformed, it's extraordinary," Fauci said to Marshall. "What are you talking about? My financial disclosures are public knowledge and have been so. You are getting amazingly wrong information," Fauci said.
In 2020, Fauci was one of the highest paid government employees with a $434,312 annual salary, according to FederalPay.org, a non-governmental website. Edward Garay of the Veterans Health Administration was the highest paid, with a $464,227 annual salary. Both men are medical doctors. Fauci has been the director of NIAID since 1984 and has advised every president since Ronald Reagan.
When Marshall was cut off and another senator was called to ask questions, Fauci's microphone caught the expert quietly saying "what a moron."
"Jesus Christ," Fauci mumbled, seemingly out of frustration with Marshall.
The moment with Marshall was not the only tense part of Tuesday's hearing. Fauci also exchanged barbs with Senator Rand Paul.
Fauci accused Paul of "distorting everything about me" after the Republican from Kentucky accused Fauci of organizing a smear campaign to denounce conservative academics who had opposed shutdown measures in 2020.
Paul used a series of emails sent by Fauci as supposed proof of the orchestrated effort, but the emails showed Fauci sending his colleagues a link to a Wired article that disproved claims of achieving "herd immunity."
Fauci said Paul's claims had direct effects on his safety. "What happens when [Paul] gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that all of a sudden that kindles the crazies out there, and I have … threats upon my life, harassment of my family and my children with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me," Fauci said. Fauci has received threats and did received increased security at the start of the pandemic.