Fauci Backtracks on Airline Vaccine Mandate Following Conservative Backlash

Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared to backtrack on the idea of a vaccine mandate for airline passengers on Monday following strong criticism of the idea from conservatives.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told CNN's Jim Acosta that he did not believe people should expect a vaccine requirement on domestic flights.

The infectious diseases expert had faced criticism after suggesting on Sunday that he was in favor of a vaccine requirement for airline passengers if it helped to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19.

Fauci told ABC News' This Week on Sunday: "A vaccine requirement for a person getting on the plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated."

"Namely, you can't get on a plane unless you're vaccinated, which is just another one of the ways of getting requirements, whatever that might be," he said.

"Anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome," he said.

Fauci also told MSNBC on Monday morning: "When you make vaccination a requirement, that's another incentive to get more people vaccinated."

Those comments led to significant backlash, most prominently from Fox News' Will Cain, a co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend.

"Dr. Anthony Fauci needs to be fired," Cain said on Monday morning. "He is simply out of control. He is power drunk, and I would ask any journalist who has access to Dr. Anthony Fauci [...to] ask him ask him the limit of his own power."

The infectious diseases expert also faced a wave of criticism on social media over the idea of vaccine requirements on flights.

Donald Trump Jr., son of former President Donald Trump, tweeted on Monday, slightly misquoting Fauci: "'Anything that could help more people get vaccinated would be welcome.' So what then, force people at gunpoint? Don't allow them to work or get food for their families? This man is a tyrant and a threat to whatever freedom we have left."

Michael D. Brown, former undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Department of Homeland Security, accused Fauci of "[g]oing after the airlines at same time using airlines to force vaccinations."

Fauci appeared on CNN's The Situation Room later on Monday and told Jim Acosta that he was not in favor of a vaccine mandate for airline passengers but he had discussed the issue as a possibility.

"You've been saying that vaccine mandates for domestic flights should considered—should be seriously considered," Acosta said. "Is that something that President Biden is seriously considering?"

"No, what I said, Jim, was that everything that comes up as a possibility, we put it on the table and we consider it. That does not mean that it is going to be likely to happen," Fauci replied.

"Right now, I don't think people should expect that we're going to have a requirement in domestic flights for people to be vaccinated," he went on. "When I was asked that question, I gave an honest answer. It's on the table, and we consider it, but that doesn't mean it's gonna happen. I doubt if we're gonna see something like that in the reasonably foreseeable future."

When Acosta pressed him on the issue, Fauci said he was keeping things "open for consideration." Acosta asked Fauci if he was the only White House official in favor of a vaccine mandate for air passengers and he appeared to reject the premise of the question.

"No, let's clarify that, Jim. I said that is something that's open for consideration. It's not a question of being in favor of it or not," Fauci said.

"I'm in favor of what we can do to keep the country safe. If the situation arise[s] where that's something we think should be important to do, we'll do it. Right now, that's not going to be done. But we never take anything off the table. We always keep things open for consideration," he said.

Anthony Fauci Testifies at a Senate Committee
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Fauci has faced criticism for appearing to support a vaccine mandate for airline passengers. Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images