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Dozens of Mass. doctors, scientists sign on to letter supporting Fauci, decrying attacks on him

Dr. Anthony Fauci testified Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.SHAWN THEW (pool)/Associated Press

Dozens of doctors and scientists affiliated with Massachusetts institutions are among those who have signed an open letter supporting Dr. Anthony Fauci and decrying Republican attacks on him.

“We deplore the personal attacks on Dr. Fauci,” said the letter, which had more than 200 signatories. “The criticism is inaccurate, unscientific, ill-founded in the facts and, increasingly, motivated by partisan politics. It is a distraction from what should be the national focus — working together to finally overcome a pandemic that is killing about 500,000 people a year. We are grateful for Dr. Fauci’s dedication and tireless efforts to help the country through this pandemic and other health crises.”

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Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is the nation’s top infectious disease doctor and President Biden’s top medical adviser on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle Williams, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was one of the signers. “The vitriol directed towards Dr. Fauci over the past two years ... is entirely unacceptable,” she said in a statement.

She also said it was “just the tip of the iceberg—public health officials across the country and world have been harassed, bullied, threatened with violence, and worse; little wonder that more than 250 of them have left the field since the pandemic began. This has to stop.”

Other Massachusetts signers included Dr. George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School; Dr. Todd R. Golub, director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT; and Dr. Daniel P. McQuillen, an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine who is president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“Physicians trying to work for the country are outraged by Tony’s treatment — the innuendo, smear campaign,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who organized the letter, told The New York Times. “It is reminiscent of Joe McCarthy attacking people without any basis and ruining them, in this case inciting others to violence.”

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Four Nobel laureates signed, the Times reported. One was Dr. William G. Kaelin Jr., a professor at Harvard Medical School.

Fauci has been a target of criticism from conservatives who have questioned the science behind coronavirus vaccines, masks, and other public health guidance, and have falsely claimed that Fauci is part of a conspiracy that led to the creation of the coronavirus in a Chinese lab.

In a Senate hearing Tuesday, Fauci accused Republican Senator Rand Paul of using the pandemic for his own personal political gain. Fauci also said the false attacks on him have led to threats on his life.

“What happens when he [Paul] gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue?” Fauci said of Paul during the hearing. “All of a sudden that kindles the crazies out there, and I have life — threats upon my life, harassment of my family and my children with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me.

“Now, you know, I guess you could say, ‘Well, that’s the way it goes. I can take the hit.’ Well, it makes a difference because, some of you may know, just about three or four weeks ago, on December 21, a person was arrested who was on the way from Sacramento to Washington, D.C., at a speed stop in Iowa. And they asked, the police to ask him where he was going, and he was going to Washington, D.C., to kill Dr. Fauci.”

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A police report confirms the arrest of Kuachua Brillion Xiong, 25, on Dec. 21 in Iowa, with an AR-15 and multiple magazines of ammunition. The criminal complaint filed in Xiong’s case says that he was traveling to Washington and had a “hit list” including Fauci and others. An attorney for Xiong has filed a notice of insanity defense.

The open letter said that Fauci “has served the USA with wisdom and integrity for nearly 40 years. Through HIV, Ebola, and now COVID, he has unswervingly served the United States guiding the country to very successful outcomes. He has our unreserved respect and trust as a scientist and a national leader.”

It also said, “Sadly, in these politically polarized times where misinformation contaminates the United States’ response to the pandemic, routine public health measures have become unnecessarily controversial, undermining the effectiveness of our country’s response.”

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.


Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.