Fauci hits back at GOP criticism over emails: 'It's all nonsense'

White House chief medical adviser Anthony FauciAnthony FauciMore than 40 Texas hospitals face ICU bed shortages FDA mulling to allow 'mix and match' COVID-19 vaccine booster shots: report The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Remembrances flow in after Powell's death MORE late Friday pushed back on fresh criticism from Republicans following the release of thousands of his emails this week, calling the backlash "inappropriate" and "misleading."

"It's really very much an attack on science," Fauci said during an interview on MSNBC's "The Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowRachel Maddow reveals she underwent surgery for skin cancer Rachel Maddow extends contract with MSNBC: reports OAN loses appeal in defamation lawsuit against Rachel Maddow MORE Show" when asked about the latest attacks targeting him.

"I mean, it is what it is. I'm a public figure, I'm going to take the arrows and the slings, but they're just — they're fabricated, and that's just what it is," added Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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"My job was to make a vaccine and use my institute and these talented scientists that we have there and that we fund in the various universities to get a vaccine that was highly safe and highly effective," he continued.

"We succeeded," he said. "All the other stuff is just a terrible, not happy type of distraction. But it's all nonsense."

Fauci has long faced scrutiny from Republicans over his evolved guidance on masking and other issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the latest criticism centering on his approach to the theory that the virus may have originated in a lab.

Emails between Fauci and others obtained this week by news outlets through public records requests show correspondence from early on in the pandemic raising the possibility that the virus came from a lab. Fauci had cast doubt on the theory publicly, though the emails do not show the scientist outright rejecting the prospect.

"I still believe the most likely origin is from an animal species to a human, but I keep an absolutely open mind that if there may be other origins of that, there may be another reason, it could have been a lab leak," Fauci told CNN on Thursday.

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President BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE said Friday that he remains "very confident in Dr. Fauci" and White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Democrats at odds with Manchin over child tax credit provision MORE called the medical adviser an "undeniable asset" amid new criticism from Republicans including Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyState watchdog to launch review of Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal Juan Williams: Trump's toxicity fuels fear of violence Pentagon, State Department square off on Afghanistan accountability MORE (Mo.), a top ally of former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE who called for Fauci to resign on Friday.

The backlash from Republicans comes as the U.S. intelligence community probes whether the virus came from animal-to-human transmission or through a lab accident in Wuhan, China, with Biden ordering a report laying out the evidence.

Fauci said in the MSNBC interview that identifying the origin of COVID-19 is important to prevent another widespread outbreak.

"It is important to understand that. But it is being approached now in a very vehement way, in a very distorted way I believe, by attacking me," Fauci told Maddow, who has defended him on the program.

"The question is extremely legitimate," Fauci continued. "But what's happened in the middle of all that, I've become the object of extraordinary, I believe completely inappropriate, distorted, misleading and misrepresented attacks."

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"It's unfortunate," he added.

Fauci, who has appeared repeatedly on Maddow's show during the pandemic, appeared again on the program Friday night after the host praised him to open the segment, calling him a "devoted researcher and scientist."

"People attacking him now appear to be mad at him for the fact that there's an epidemic at all," she declared.