- Fox News host Jesse Watters told a crowd at a TPUSA event on Monday to “ambush” Dr. Anthony Fauci.
- Fauci told CNN on Monday that Watters should be fired for the remarks.
- In a statement to Politico, Fox News defended Watters.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, called on Fox News to fire Jesse Watters, after the host told a crowd at a Turning Point USA’s AmericaFest conference to go after him and “ambush” him with questions in public.
“That’s awful that he said that. And he’s going to go, very likely, unaccountable,” Fauci told CNN. “I mean, whatever network he’s on is not going to do anything for him. I mean, that’s crazy. The guy should be fired on the spot.”
On Monday, Watters encouraged the crowd to “ambush” Fauci with questions about an unfounded claim about “gain-of-function” funding in China and the coronavirus in public. Watters went through a mock ambush interview scenario.
“You got to ambush a guy like Fauci. OK, this is how you do these ambushes like O’Keefe. You got to be respectful because they’ll turn the tables on you and you can’t have it blow up in your face,” he said, referencing right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe.
He went on to give examples of questions to ask and tells the audience to record Fauci’s responses.
“Now you go in for the kill shot. The kill shot? With an ambush? Deadly. Because he doesn’t see it coming,” Watters said.
He added: “This is when you say, ‘Dr. Fauci, you funded risky research at a sloppy Chinese lab, the same lab that sprung this pandemic on the world. You know why people don’t trust you, don’t you?’ Boom, he is dead! He is dead! He’s done!”
—John Berman (@JohnBerman) December 21, 2021
Watters was referring to unproven claims that the National Institutes of Health funded “gain-of-function” research at a Wuhan lab.
In May of 2021, the head of the NIH released a statement about the claims, saying, “neither NIH nor NIAID have ever approved any grant that would have supported ‘gain-of-function’ research on coronaviruses that would have increased their transmissibility or lethality for humans.”
“NIH strongly supports the need for further investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO) into the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus,” the NIH added. “Working with a cross-regional coalition of 13 countries(link is external), we urge the WHO to begin the second phase of their study without delay.”
Watters told the crowd to then take the recording of these “ambush” interviews and send them to Fox News or other conservative outlets.
“I’ve authorized it,” Watters said. “Just make sure it’s legal.”
In a statement to Insider, Fox News defended Watters and said the host’s statements were taken out of context.
“Based on watching the full clip and reading the entire transcript, it’s more than clear that Jesse Watters was using a metaphor for asking hard-hitting questions to Dr. Fauci about gain-of-function research and his words have been twisted completely out of context,” Fox News said.
Fauci has been the target of conspiracy theories, hate mail, and death threats as the public health face of the US response to COVID-19.
“The only thing that I have ever done throughout these two years is to encourage people to practice good public-health practices, to get vaccinated, to be careful in public settings, to wear a mask,” Fauci told CNN, in response to Watters’ comments. “And for that, you have some guy out there saying that people should be giving me a ‘kill shot’ to ‘ambush’ me. I mean, what kind of craziness is there in society these days?”
This isn’t the first time those on Fox News have targeted Fauci. Late last month, host Lara Logan compared Fauci to a Nazi doctor on Fox News “Primetime.”
Fauci later told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that Logans comments were “disgusting” and “an insult to all of the people who suffered and died under the Nazi regime in the concentration camps.”