Fauci testifies before Congress for first time since leaving government: 5 takeaways from the hearing

Biden's top expert on infectious diseases was called by a Republican-led subcommittee to testify about the origins of COVID-19.

Dr. Anthony Fauci testified publicly on Capitol Hill Monday for the first time since leaving government. Appearing before the Republican-led House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, Fauci sought to debunk conservative conspiracy theories about his response to COVID-19 while withstanding personal attacks from several GOP members of the panel.

Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Biden, stepped down from both positions in 2022. He testified behind closed doors before the same committee for two days in January.

The veteran of seven presidential adminstrations also testified that he and his family continue to receive death threats as a result of misinformation and that they still require security detail. Fauci left his position at the NIAID and Biden administration in 2022.

Here are five key takeaways from Fauci’s testimony.

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci being sworn in on Monday. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

America’s former top infectious disease expert testified that, contrary to allegations made by Republicans on the panel, he never sought to suppress the theory that COVID-19 came from a laboratory — and has always kept an open mind about the virus’s origins.

Fauci recounted a conference call on Feb. 1, 2020, with top global scientists who were initially concerned that the virus could have been manipulated in a lab versus “a spillover from an animal reservoir.”

“I did not try to steer the discussion in any direction,” Fauci told the committee, pointing to an email he sent the same day urging evolutionary scientists to further examine the lab-leak theory.

“It is inconceivable that anyone who reads this email could conclude that I was trying to cover up the possibility of a lab leak,” Fauci said. “I always kept an open mind.”

Anthony Fauci
Fauci testified that he "kept an open mind" about the origins of COVID-19. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The former NIAID director was grilled about emails uncovered by the committee sent by David Morens, a former senior adviser at the agency who, in April 2021, seemed to indicate that Fauci used his private email address to avoid having potentially sensitive information about government business disclosed to the public.

In his opening statement, Fauci distanced himself from Morens, saying he knew nothing about Fauci's actions and that Morens “was not an adviser to me on institute policy or other substantive issues.”

Fauci added: “To the best of my knowledge, I have never conducted official business via my personal email.”

Anthony Fauci
Fauci spoke of "credible death threats" against him and his family over pandemic policies. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Fauci served under former President Donald Trump and rose to prominence as a member of his COVID response team. At times he clashed with Trump, and subsequently received death threats that forced him to have round-the-clock security.

He testified Monday that he and his family still receive death threats.

"There has been everything from harassment received by emails, texts, letters of myself, my wife, my three daughters," he said. "There have been credible death threats leading to the arrests of two individuals, and credible death threats means someone who was clearly on their way to kill me. And it's required my having protective services essentially all the time."

In his opening remarks, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, the Republican subcommittee chairman from Ohio, apologized to Fauci for the threats.

“I do want to say I’m sorry about the threats that you have received,” Wenstrup said. “My heart goes out to you. That should never happen in America. Regardless of any disagreements we may have, you chose to serve, and I want to extend our appreciation and gratitude.”

Fauci testifies during Monday's hearing. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
Fauci testifies during Monday's hearing. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

During the five minutes she was allotted questions, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican from Georgia, informed Fauci that she was refusing to call him a doctor because she said she believes he “does not deserve to have a license” and should be “in prison.”

The remarks drew objections from Democrats on the committee and from Wenstrup, who instructed Greene to refer to Fauci — who received a doctorate in medicine from Cornell University in 1966 before joining the National Institutes of Health — by his earned title.

“The gentle lady should recognize the doctor as a doctor,” Wenstrup said.

“I'm not addressing him as a doctor,” Greene replied.

Later in the hearing, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat from Florida, apologized to Fauci for Greene’s behavior.

"I saw a member of this committee question whether you represent science," Moskowitz said. “I just want you to know most Americans don't think she represents Congress.”

Anthony Fauci
Fauci was praised by Democrats on Capitol Hill, with Rep. Jamie Raskin calling him an "honorable public servant.". (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Democratic members of the GOP-led panel came to Fauci’s defense throughout the hearing, castigating their colleagues for dragging Fauci back to Capitol Hill to testify despite their 15-month investigation into his handling of COVID-19.

“Dr. Fauci is an honorable public servant who has devoted his entire career to the public health and public interest,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, said. “He is not a comic book supervillain.”

California Rep. Robert Garcia, who said both of his parents died from COVID-19, thanked Fauci for helping shape policies that saved lives during the pandemic.

“I lost both of my parents during the pandemic, so I take this very personally," Garcia said while condemning Greene for her comments.

“Your quote-unquote so-called science that the gentlewoman is referring to has saved millions of lives in this country and around the world,” Garcia said. “It’s important to note that my opinion is that you are an American hero and your team has done more to save lives than all 435 members of this body on both sides of the aisle.”