Kelly Hawes: Fox News host pushes debunked claim

The whole thing started with remarks by Fox News personality Jesse Watters at an event sponsored by Turning Point USA.

Watters was encouraging an audience of college students to sneak up on the president’s COVID-19 adviser, Anthony Fauci, at public appearances.

“Now you go in for the kill shot,” he said. “The kill shot, with an ambush, deadly.

Because he doesn’t see it coming.”

Watters even offered a script. Get it on tape, he suggested. The conservative echo chamber will take it from there.

“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?’” Watters suggested.

“Boom! He is dead! He is dead! Done!”

John Berman, host of CNN’s New Day, seized on the remarks in an interview with Fauci.

“On the issue of divisiveness, Dr. Fauci, frankly, I’m not gonna play it, because I think it’s dangerous,” Berman said, “but Jesse Watters, who is a Fox News entertainer, was giving a speech to a conservative group where he talked about you and suggested to the crowd that they ambush you with what he said was some sort of rhetorical ‘kill shot.’ That was his exact word. I’m wondering how much that concerns you, when you hear language like that, about you and your well-being.”

My first reaction after watching the Watters video was maybe Berman should have played it. It might have made clear to Fauci that Watters wasn’t really threatening his life. Fauci, though, was left to respond to the question he was asked.

“That’s horrible,” he said.

“That’s just such a reflection of the craziness that goes on in society. The only thing 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.

“And for that, you have some guy out there saying that people should be giving me a ‘kill shot,’ to ambush me,” he said. “I mean what kind of craziness is there in society these days? That’s awful that he said that. And he’s going to go, very likely, unaccountable. Whatever network he’s on is not going to do anything to him. I mean that’s crazy. The guy should be fired on the spot.” Fox News confirmed Fauci’s prediction, noting that Watters was speaking metaphorically in his remarks.

Perhaps Watters should have been called out for his inflammatory rhetoric, but it might have been even more helpful if Berman had gotten to the core of what Watters was saying.

The theory that Fauci is somehow responsible for the emergence of COVID-19 has been circulating in conservative media for some time. It’s based on the assertion that the virus originated at a lab in Wuhan, China, through research funded by Fauci’s arm of the National Institutes of Health. In examining that claim, the website PolitiFact concluded it was too early to tell where the virus originated.

Some scientists insist it developed in nature. Others say it might have come from a lab.

“That dispute notwithstanding,” the website said, “the claim that COVID-19 was created with research funded by Dr. Anthony Fauci remains False.”

It would seem only fair to give Fauci another chance to call out the hogwash Watters was advancing.

The story line has been debunked repeatedly, and Watters ought to be shamed for trafficking in such nonsense.

It’s stunning that guys like Watters persist in painting Fauci as a villain.

The man is 81 years old. He could have retired years ago, but he keeps plugging away, working tirelessly to protect the public health.

He is an American hero.