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As Rep. Stefanik ramps up attacks, she takes aim at Speaker Pelosi, Dr. Fauci

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, speaks to her supporters declaring victory on Election Day in Glens Falls on Nov. 3, 2020.
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U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, speaks to her supporters declaring victory on Election Day in Glens Falls on Nov. 3, 2020.

Rep. Elise Stefanik on Thursday called for the removal of top White House pandemic adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci in a two-word social media post (in all caps): “FIRE FAUCI,” she posted on Twitter.

Earlier this week, Stefanik called for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s firing, alleging the Democratic leader “bears responsibility for what happened on January 6th,” the day a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing Stefanik and her colleagues to seek shelter in hidden offices. 

Since rising to the third-ranking position in the Republican House Conference, a position tasked with leading the party’s messaging efforts, Stefanik has ramped up her attacks against Democrats, President Joe Biden and other top government officials

Stefanik’s “FIRE FAUCI” message on Thursday stood in stark contrast to months-old tweets she has since deleted that recommend her followers “tune in to Dr. Anthony Fauci during federal press briefings,” according to a ProPublica archive of deleted tweets. 

“He has done an incredible job educating the public,” Stefanik said of Fauci in the since-deleted messages. 

Stefanik senior adviser Alex deGrasse on Thursday said Stefanik “called for Dr. Fauci to be fired months ago,” but it was unclear what, if anything, prompted the new calls for his removal on Thursday. 

Since the early days of the pandemic, Fauci has been turned into a hero among Democrats and progressives, who fawn over his straight-shooting health advice, and a villain among Republicans and conservatives, who chafe at his calls for personal sacrifice in service of broader public health concerns. Fauci has also been the centerpiece of countless conspiracy theories about the vaccine, the origins of COVID-19 virus and the restrictions that governments have put in place to advance public health. 

In his statement, deGrasse alluded to a handful of Fauci critiques prominent in conservative circles, including accusations that Fauci is helping cover up the origins of virus on China’s behalf. Conservatives have also criticized Fauci for initially telling the public to not wear masks – because health officials wanted to preserve them for health workers – before then recommending widespread mask-wearing. 

“Dr. Fauci has been giving Americans mixed messages about how they should be protecting themselves for months now. He has lost all credibility with the American people,” deGrasse said. 

Earlier this week, Stefanik drew widespread criticism from Democrats and national media outlets after she said Pelosi “bears responsibility” for the attack on the U.S. Capitol that Trump inspired; Stefanik has never criticized Trump for his role in the attack.

Stefanik and other Republicans suggested Pelosi should have prepared Capitol Police for the attack before it came, but Pelosi has limited control over Capitol Police and multiple studies of the attack have highlighted numerous failings of intelligence and law enforcement.  Pelosi shared partial control  of the Capitol Police with then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. It’s unclear if any Republicans have called for his firing.

When police testified at the first hearing of a special committee charged with investigating the Jan. 6 attack, some of them alluded to their frustration over Republicans denying the seriousness of what they faced on that day.

A pair of would-be Stefanik challengers on Thursday seized on the Fauci tweet to argue she was undermining public health advice in an effort to advance her own political ambitions.  

Bridie Farrell, a Saratoga native running for the Democratic nomination in the state’s 21st Congressional District, in her own social media message highlighted the large death toll of the pandemic.

“Keep Fauci. Fire Elise Stefanik,” Farrell responded on Twitter. “Over 50,000 New Yorkers have died and delta variant cases are on the rise, but Elise Stefanik continues to put her own political ambition ahead of the lives of those she was elected to represent.”

Matt Purtorti, another candidate for the Democratic nomination, said he trusted scientists, including Fauci, and encouraged North Country residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“COVID rates are spiking and people in the North Country are being hospitalized. It is unconscionable for any elected officials, especially someone with as big of a platform as Elise Stefanik, to undermine the public health officials who are trying to keep us safe,” he said in a statement. “This should not be partisan and it is shameful for Elise to try to score political points. I trust science and our talented scientists, including Dr. Fauci, so please get vaccinated, please encourage others to get vaccinated, and please follow CDC guidelines. The only way out of this pandemic is if we work together and care for one another.”

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