Senator Rand Paul has been seen in a resurfaced video admitting to spreading misinformation and says “misinformation works”.
The Kentucky senator, who has been accused of issuing an “unbalanced” and “delusional” attack on Dr Anthony Fauci, had on Tuesday been accused of “distorting” information about Covid-19 and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and of issuing “misinformation”.
A video shared to Twitter by Federation of American scientists epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding appeared to show Mr Paul in 2013 admitting to telling medical students at the University of Louisville, “misinformation works”, as The Atlantic reported at the time.
“We spread the rumor that we knew what was on the test and it was definitely going to be all about the liver,” said the senator of his medical studies. “We tried to trick all of our competing students into over-studying for the liver and not studying the kidney and very other organ.”
He added, “That’s my advice, misinformation works, so try to trick your opponents,” having revealed that he would “sometimes spread misinformation” before he qualified as an ophthalmologist – and ran for Congress in 2010.
That video emerged after Dr Fauci said in front of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions that “What happens when he (Mr Paul) gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that all of a sudden, that kindles the crazies out there”.
He continued: “I have [had] threats upon my life, harassment of my family and my children.”
“In usual fashion, senator, who are distorting everything about me. You keep coming back to personal attacks on me that have absolutely no relevance,” said the NIAID director of misinformation issue by Mr Paul.
Following that confrontational senate committee hearing on Covid, Mr Paul appeared on Fox News on Tuesday night and doubled down on Dr Fauci’s distortion and misinformation claims.
“So, he’s blaming me for a death threat,” Mr Paul told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “But when we [a Republican member of Congress] were shot at by a Bernie Sanders supporter, not one Republican stood up and said, oh, this is Bernie Sanders’s fault.”
“We were not juvenile enough to do that,” the senator said. “But he [Dr Fauci] came to the hearing today and accused me of somehow inciting some lunatic person.”
“Does he not realise I have people arrested once every month or two who have threatened to attack me, plus I have been attacked, and he’s going to come and blame his attacks on me? It wasn’t fair. It was a cheap shot. But it was a cheap shot by a politician, not a scientist,” he added.
The Kentucky Republican was referring to a shooting incident involving Representative Steve Scalise and a Sanders supporter in 2017.
Dr Fauci has described allegations about the NIAID’s work with the Wuhan institute of virology as “nonsense” and of an “anti-scientific flavour”, with the US having had no known role in the enhancement of coronaviruses in Wuhan’s lab.
On Twitter, dozens of Democrat supporters and Republican critics hit out at Mr Paul, with actress Alexandra Billings writing: “Is this some sort of shared psychosis the Republican party is suffering from? There can be no other explanation for this bizarre and dangerously unbalanced behavior. Unless it’s just plain old ordinary stupidity.”
Others tweeted that the Republican was “delusional”.
A spokesperson for Mr Paul toldThe Independent on Wednesday that “Anyone who watches the video can clearly see that Dr Paul was making a light hearted joke addressing the very real stresses of medical school.”