Musk faces backlash after calling for Fauci to be prosecuted

Dr. Anthony Fauci is set to retire at the end of the month from his role as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases after more than five decades. But on Sunday, billionaire and Twitter CEO Elon Musk called for Fauci's prosecution on the social media site, seemingly without context.

"My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci," Musk tweeted.

The remark quickly drew praise from conservatives, including Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who replied, "I affirm your pronouns Elon."

Greene's Twitter account has recently been reinstated by Musk after his acquisition of the site. She had been "permanently banned" back in January for violating the platform's COVID misinformation policies, but her reinstatement followed Musk's decision to end Twitter's COVID-19 misinformation policy in November. 

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"Fauci’s resignation should not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic," Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul replied to Musk's tweet. "His policies destroyed lives."

But Musk's tweet on Fauci also drew swift backlash from Democrats.

"It’s America. You can select any pronouns you damn well please," Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips wrote. "But Anthony Fauci has likely saved more human lives than any living person in the world. Shame on you." 

"Elon Musk wants to criminalize Anthony Fauci because he disagrees with him. Elon is no champion of free speech," tweeted New York Rep. Ritchie Torres, harkening back to Musk calling himself a "free speech absolutist."

Side-by-side images of Elon Musk and Anthony Fauci

On the left, Tesla CEO Elon Musk smiles as he addresses guests at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 (ONS) meeting in Stavanger, Norway on August 29, 2022. On the right, Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks about the coronavirus during the White House press briefin

Backlash from LGBTQ community

Musk's tweet also drew criticism for mentioning pronouns.

"Elon, please don’t mock and promote hate toward already marginalized and at-risk-of-violence members of the #LGBTQ+ community, They are real people with real feelings," former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, the brother of Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, replied to Musk's tweet.

"I strongly disagree," Musk replied to Kelly. "Forcing your pronouns upon others when they didn’t ask, and implicitly ostracizing those who don’t, is neither good nor kind to anyone."

Musk has made headlines in the past over his controversial statements on gender identity.

"Pronouns suck," he posted on Twitter in 2020.

"I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare," he wrote in a separate tweet that same year.

RELATED: Elon Musk's transgender child looks to change name to cut all ties with father

Earlier this year, his 18-year-old transgender child transitioned from male to female. She asked the court for a new birth certificate and name change to reflect her new gender identity — going from Xavier Alexander Musk to Vivian Jenna Wilson to take her mother's last name.

She severed ties with the billionaire, citing "gender identity and the fact that I no longer live with or wish to be related to my biological father in any way, shape or form," on the petition. 

Fauci's retirement

Fauci, 81, became the face of the government response to COVID-19 as it hit in early 2020, with frequent appearances on television news and at daily press conferences with White House officials, including then-President Donald Trump. But as the pandemic deepened, Fauci fell out of favor with Trump when his urgings of continued public caution clashed with the former president's desire to return to normalcy and to promote unproven treatments for the virus.

Fauci found himself marginalized by the Trump administration, but he continued to speak out publicly in media interviews, advocating social distancing and masks in public settings before the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines.

He was also the subject of political attacks and death threats and was given a security detail for his protection.

When Biden won the White House, he asked Fauci to stay on in his administration in an elevated capacity.

RELATED: Fauci to step down after decades as top US infectious disease expert

"I’ve been able to call him at any hour of the day for his advice," Biden said in a statement. "Whether you’ve met him personally or not, he has touched all Americans’ lives with his work. I extend my deepest thanks for his public service. The United States of America is stronger, more resilient, and healthier because of him."

In his final appearance at the White House in November, Fauci expressed his frustrations over the country's partisanship in response to the pandemic.

"As a physician, it pains me, because I don’t want to see anybody get infected. I don’t want to see anybody hospitalized. And I don’t want to see anybody die from COVID," Fauci said. "Whether you’re a far-right Republican or a far-left Democrat, doesn’t make any difference to me."