(CNSNews.com) - Dr. Anthony Fauci, who plans to retire at the end of the year, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Monday night that we are seeing an increased threat from new and insurgent viruses, such as monkeypox, polio, SARS, Zika and others.
"There are probably a number of complex reasons why that's the case," he said.
"If you look at the outbreaks that you just enumerated a moment ago, it really follows a pattern that we've known for some time, that about 70 percent to 75 percent of all the new emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Namely, they jump from an animal species to a human.
"We saw that with HIV. We saw that with ebola. We see that with monkeypox. And we're seeing with this historic pandemic of COVID-19, which almost certainly evolved the way SARS-COV-1 did from an animal reservoir such as a bat in the environment that jumped species.
So if we really want to pay attention to how we can mitigate this, we have to pay much more attention to the animal/human interface and to what we are doing intentionally or inadvertently of perturbing that animal/human interface by encroaching upon rain forests, by getting involved in interfacing with animals such as in the wet markets, which occur in China, when you bring in animals where you don't have any idea what disease they're harboring and you put them in close touch with humans.
"I think that's one of the things we really better pay more attention to, looking forward, is attention to that animal/human interface."
Fauci has downplayed the Wuhan lab-leak theory of COVID's origins, drawing criticism from those who suggest he may have reasons to deny that theory. (Sen. Rand Paul tweeted on Monday: "Fauci’s resignation will not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic. He will be asked to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the lab leak.")
Maddow told Fauci Monday night, "There have been a lot of theories and conspiracy theories and accusations and more or less wild claims about the origins of COVID in particular. It seems like that's when people on the political right really started getting their claws into you and targeting you personally during this pandemic."
Maddow asked Fauci if the criticism "feels a little different" this time, "if it is indeed more dangerous than the kind of criticism you've had in the past?"
"It's phenomenally, 100 percent different," Fauci said.
"What we're dealing with now is just a distortion of reality, Rachel. I mean conspiracy theories which don't make any sense at all, pushing back on sound public health measures, you know, making it look like trying to save lives is encroaching on people's freedom. That's a big difference from the AIDS activists, who really had a good foundation for their objections."
Maddow then asked Fauci, "Having been the target of this kind of really specific, really different attack, do you have insight into what we ought to do to protect public officials like yourself and to try to be more rational about this stuff as a country?"
"You know, Rachel, I wish I did have a positive, constructive answer for you, but I don't," Fauci said:
"I think you and I are talking about public health issues right now. But what has spilled over and really in many respects impeded a proper response to a public health challenge is something that we see that goes well beyond public health. It's a complete distortion of reality.
"I mean, a world where untruths have almost become normalized, how we can see something in front of our very eyes and deny it's happening. I mean, that's the environment we're living in.
"You could look at January 6th on TV, and you have some people who actually don't believe it happened. How could that possibly be? And it's now spilling over in denial about public health principles. So I wish I had an answer, but I don't.
"I mean, I do have, as I've always been, someone who is cautiously optimistic and always feeling that we will be able to extract the good out of people, and there are the possibility that we'll see, as I say, the better angels in our society prevail. But what's going on out there now with the distortion of reality is very troublesome, and I don't have an answer for it right now. But it certainly is interfering with the proper approach to a public health challenge."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is a particularly sharp critic of Fauci. Paul has argued that Fauci is promulgating "disinformation" that is "actually harmful," including the suggestion that masks protect people from COVID and that prior infection with COVID is less effective than an mRNA shot.
Paul also has suggested that Fauci lied to Congress when he said the National Institutes of Health never funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan.
'We have a lot of questions for Dr. Fauci'
Rep. James Comer, a Republican lawmaker from Kentucky, said Fauci may be leaving his job, but he won't escape questions from Republicans if they take control of the House in November:
"We have a lot of questions for Dr. Fauci," Comer told Fox News's Laura Ingraham Monday night:
"As you know, he hasn't ever testified in front of the House since COVID started. There are so many questions that members have. We have already told Dr. Fauci to preserve all of his documents and all of his emails.
"But one thing the House Oversight Committee has unearthed, were the initial emails back in January and February of 2020, his earliest advisors said by looking at this gene sequence it appears that this (COVID) was man-made. So it had to come from the Wuhan lab.
"Now Dr. Fauci never told the public that there were advisers to him that said this originated in the Wuhan lab. Those are the main questions Republicans on House Oversight have her Dr. Fauci. Why didn't you tell the Trump administration early on and why didn't you tell the American people early on that even your closest advisers suggested that this virus originated in the Wuhan lab?"
Comer said if he were Fauci, "I would want to come before Congress and answer questions. I would want to defend my reputation. Because he is retiring with the very tarnished reputation.
“Dr. Fauci has not been truthful with the American people...He has done everything in his ability to obstruct any type of congressional oversight.
“More importantly he has done everything he can to obstruct any type of investigation, even from the intelligence community early on. And from the trump administration to try to determine the origination of COVID-19.
“I think the reason that Dr. Fauci is retiring is because now that the dust is settled, the scientists who he always refers to, are now realizing the odds this originated...in the Wuhan lab are almost 100 percent.”
Appearing on Sean Hannity's show Monday night, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) agreed that Republicans will "press" Fauci to answer their "many, many questions.
"Unless Dr. Fauci decides to seek asylum in some foreign country whose Powerball jackpot is 287 chickens and a goat-- and therefore which won't enforce a subpoena from the United States Congress -- then Dr. Fauci, retirement or not, is going to be spending a lot of time in front of a congressional committee and committees if Republicans take back control.
“We're going to ask him questions about gain-of-function research, why he didn't push back on China's lies, why he pushed back so hard on the possibility which we know is now real, that the virus originated in a Chinese lab.
"Why he went along with the greatest dissipation, if that's the right word, greatest taking of civil liberties, of the American people in the history of our country, we are going to have a lot of questions and we're going to subpoena him and expect him to answer.
"I would not advise Dr. Fauci to put down a nonrefundable deposit on a cruise."