GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci amid Trump criticism

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, defended Anthony FauciAnthony FauciGOP Rep. Cawthorn says he wants to 'prosecute' Fauci The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel McConnell pushes vaccines, but GOP muddles his message MORE on Monday after President TrumpDonald TrumpPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Has Trump beaten the system? MORE lashed out at the nation's top infectious disease expert.

“Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants. ... If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, and it would be safer to go back to school and back to work and out to eat," Alexander said in a statement.

The public pushback from Alexander, who is retiring at the end of the year, comes after Trump blasted Fauci as a "disaster" on a campaign call earlier Monday.

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“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots — these people, these people that have gotten it wrong. Fauci is a nice guy, he’s been here for 500 years, he called every one of them wrong,” Trump told campaign staffers during the call, audio of which was obtained by The Hill

Trump has repeatedly lashed out at public health experts within his administration, including Fauci, amid the coronavirus pandemic that has killed approximately 220,000 Americans, bludgeoned the U.S. economy and dramatically reshaped the 2020 election.

But his latest remarks come after Fauci told CBS's "60 Minutes" that he was not surprised Trump contracted the coronavirus after a White House event formally announcing Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettAbortion rights face most difficult test yet at Supreme Court Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade MORE as his Supreme Court nominee.

“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Fauci told "60 Minutes."

A number of individuals at the event, including Trump, subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus.