Fox News personality Jesse Watters has a juvenile sense of humor that he should long have outgrown. He is the kind of grown person who still thinks that childish pranks are funny.
At a gathering of young right-wingers organized by the group Turning Point, he took aim at Anthony Fauci, the highly respected infectious disease specialist who has become a prime target of anti-vaxxers because of his relentless urging of people to take safety precautions such as getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and avoiding large gatherings.
Speaking on Monday at Turning Point USA’s AmericaFest conference, Watters encouraged attendees to rhetorically “ambush” Fauci with dubious questions about the National Institutes of Health allegedly funding “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“Now you go in for the kill shot. The kill shot? With an ambush? Deadly. Because he doesn’t see it coming,” Watters said.
On one level this shows how ignorant Watters is. He is dreaming if he thinks that Fauci can be taken by surprise with questions about gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute, something that the NIH and the Coronavirus Task Force have looked into closely. Watters likely thinks that other people are like him, ignorant about important issues, and too lazy to study them.
Fauci responded by saying that this was reprehensible rhetoric and that Watters should be fired.
Fauci — who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and has served for 37 years as director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — on Tuesday described Watters’ remarks as “horrible.”
“The only thing that 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,” Fauci said. “And for that, you have some guy out there saying that people should be giving me a kill shot to ambush me? I mean, what kind of craziness is there in society these days?”
I knew what Watters’s defense would be. He would say that he was just being funny and that the ‘ambush’ and ‘kill shot’ he was talking about were metaphors not to be taken seriously. And sure enough, that is what Fox News said on his behalf.
Fox News defended Watters in a statement, saying: “Based on watching the full clip and reading the entire transcript, it’s more than clear that Jesse Watters was using a metaphor for asking hard-hitting questions to Dr. Fauci about gain-of-function research and his words have been twisted completely out of context.”
I accept that the language used by Watters were metaphors but that does not make them less reprehensible. As I wrote four years ago, it has long been the practice for white nationalists and neo-Nazis to use incendiary language but in way that they can defend as being ‘just for the lulz’. This way, they can attract young people with an immature sense of humor into their groups, and deflect accusations that they are fomenting violence. Fox News has adopted that stance.
That is not all. Another Fox News personalty Lara Logan even compared Fauci, who has spent his entire life in improving the health of people, to the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele who did experiments on prisoners in Auschwitz.
Fox host Lara Logan says that people tell her that Dr. Fauci doesn't represent science, but represents Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor known as the "Angel of Death" for performing medical experiments at Auschwitz: "I am talking about people all across the world are saying this" pic.twitter.com/fF2DAWfG7d
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) November 30, 2021
The danger is that all it takes is for one person to be deluded enough to think that Watters and Logan are serious, take the words literally, and actually try to ambush and kill Fauci, thinking that it will make him a hero. Recall the man who drove, heavily armed, all the way from North Carolina to Washington DC to ‘save’ children who were reportedly held in a pizza shop basement by a Satanic child sex abuse ring involving top Democrats such as Hillary Clinton.
Violent rhetoric has become commonplace in the US. Our political language is suffused with it. In that climate, using it even humorously is irresponsible.