“You know, Jake, how do you respond to something as preposterous as that?” Fauci said when asked about the comments by CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “Overhyping AIDS? It killed over 750,000 Americans and 36 million people worldwide.”
“How do you overhype that?” he added. “Overhyping COVID? It’s already killed 780,000 Americans and over 5 million people worldwide, so I don’t have any clue what he’s talking about.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci responds to GOP Sen. Ron Johnson accusing him of "overhyping" Covid-19: "Over hyping Covid? It's already killed 780,000 Americans and over 5 million people worldwide. So I don't have any clue of what he's talking about." #CNNSOTUpic.twitter.com/JNk2zN66D9
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) December 5, 2021
Johnson, a persistent coronavirus and vaccine conspiracy theorist, made the comments during an appearance on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday, which was also World AIDS Day. He criticized Fauci for issuing warnings about the new omicron variant of COVID-19.
“Fauci did the exact same thing with AIDS. He overhyped it,” Johnson said. “He created all kinds of fear, saying it could affect the entire population when it couldn’t. And he’s doing, he’s using the exact same playbook with COVID, ignoring therapy, pushing a vaccine.”
Despite ongoing research, there is no vaccine for HIV, which causes AIDS.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Fauci and other federal government officials faced fierce criticism and protest from LGBTQ activists for failing to take swifter action on finding treatment for the disease.
Ultimately, however, Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, became instrumental in research to treat HIV/AIDS.
He has become a repeat target for at-times outrageous criticism from conservatives, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccine and science groups during the coronavirus pandemic.
Recently, Fox Nation’s Lara Logan sparked uproar when she compared him to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele for helping to enact restrictions and vaccine mandates to limit the spread of COVID-19. Mengele was known as the “Angel of Death” for conducting evil experiments on Jewish adults and children at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.