White House says Musk's condemnation of Fauci is 'dangerous,' 'disgusting'

WASHINGTON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Billionaire Elon Musk's public condemnation of top U.S. health official Anthony Fauci is "dangerous" and "disgusting," and should be called out, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday.

"They are disgusting, and they are divorced from reality, and we will continue to call that out and be very clear about that," Jean-Pierre said on Monday. She praised Fauci's handling of public heath crises, including the coronavirus pandemic.

Musk over the weekend had tweeted: "My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci." As the tweet went viral, the CEO of Twitter and of electric car maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) replied to his own post, adding: "Truth resonates."

Fauci, who said he planned to retire in December as President Joe Biden's top medical adviser and top U.S. infectious disease official, has dealt with the thorny questions around health crises from HIV/AIDS to avian flu and Ebola.

The veteran immunologist has served as an adviser to seven U.S. presidents beginning with Republican Ronald Reagan and has had over 50 years of public service.

But it was his handling of COVID - and his blunt assessments from the White House podium that Americans needed to change their behavior in light of the pandemic - that made him a hero to public health advocates while serving under former President Donald Trump, a villain to some on the right and an unusual celebrity among bureaucratic officials used to toiling in obscurity.

The United States leads the world in recorded COVID-19 deaths with more than one million.

Fauci has said he has faced death threats. He endured criticism from Trump and from various conservatives who objected to safeguards such as vaccination, social distancing and masking that he advocated to try to limit the lethality of the pandemic.

Republicans also threatened to probe Fauci if they got control of Congress in the midterm elections, in which they won control of the House of Representatives while the Democrats narrowly retained control of the Senate.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; Writing by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Kanishka Singh is a breaking news reporter for Reuters in Washington DC, who primarily covers US politics and national affairs in his current role. His past breaking news coverage has spanned across a range of topics like the Black Lives Matter movement; the US elections; the 2021 Capitol riots and their follow up probes; the Brexit deal; US-China trade tensions; the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan; the COVID-19 pandemic; and a 2019 Supreme Court verdict on a religious dispute site in his native India.