U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, said Dr. Anthony Fauci has "overhyped" the COVID-19 pandemic and he did the "exact same thing with AIDS."
Fauci has been a common target for Republicans since he joined the previous administration's COVID-19 task force. He's now the country's top infectious disease expert and the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden.
The senator made the remarks on a podcast with Fox & Friends cohost Brian Kilmeade that aired Wednesday on World AIDS Day.
"Fauci did the exact same thing with AIDS. He overhyped it," Johnson told Kilmeade.
"He created all kinds of fear, saying it could affect the entire population when it couldn't," Johnson said, without citing scientific evidence. "And he's doing, he's using the exact same playbook with COVID, ignoring therapy, pushing a vaccine."
Kilmeade did not dispute Johnson's claims. He moved to a different subject.
It's well known that both HIV and COVID-19 can affect anyone. While there is no vaccine for HIV, there are vaccines available for COVID-19.
Fauci's role in combating the country's HIV crisis that began in the 1980s is also well known. Fauci was the first director of the National Institutes of Health's Office of AIDS Research.
Those early years in the HIV epidemic were a confusing time, Fauci told The Advocate previously. "The U.S. didn't jump right away to address it like they should have, so it was left up to scientists and doctors like myself that were not very numerous, and gay activists who really beat the bushes to get people's attention to do more about this disease," he said. After facing criticism from activists, Fauci said he began involving them in clinical trials and the regulatory process.
Johnson has pushed COVID-19 misinformation before, according to HuffPost.
In the U.S. more than 700,000 people have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That's equal to the number of people who have died due to HIV since the virus was discovered.
Condemnation of Johnson's comments was swift.
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia, wrote on Twitter that the remarks were a "monstrously ignorant thing to say even for Ron Johnson."
Political commentator Scot Ross was direct in his rebuke of Johnson.