A defiant Dr. Anthony Fauci hit critics Wednesday for his dismissal, blew up their “ridiculous” and “painfully ludicrous” attacks and defended his record as the leading official in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Such “attacks on me are frankly attacks on science,” Fauci said in an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News. “People want to fire me or put me in jail for what I’ve done – which is to follow science.”

Fauci, the White House’s senior medical adviser, took a beating while directly refuting critics who attacked his earlier remarks about the origins of the virus and the wearing of masks to prevent transmission, as well as a number of conspiracy theories.

“If you go through each and every one of them you can explain and debunk it right away,” said Fauci. “I mean every single one.”

Fauci also flatly dismissed a conspiracy theory about him and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg that was promoted by Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

Zuckerberg emailed Fauci at the start of the pandemic, invited him to a question-and-answer video on the platform, and outlined some ideas on how the social media giant is working with the U.S. government on the Covid response could. Blackburn claimed the emails between the two men showed that Fauci was trying to create a narrative “so you would only know what they wanted to know”.

Fauci has come under fire in the past few days after the release of a number of his emails received by BuzzFeed News and other news outlets under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I don’t want to devalue a US Senator, but I have no idea what she’s talking about,” said Fauci after listening to the senator’s allegations.

Fauci, the 80-year-old director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, claimed that his views on the origins of the coronavirus have not changed, even though laboratory leak pandemic theory has become more mainstream recently.

To say that a scenario of natural origin is more likely “doesn’t mean there is an obstruction to being a leak,” said Fauci, “although many people, myself included, believe that the most likely origin is still natural Origin is. “

“I haven’t changed my mind,” said Fauci.

“You want to stay open-minded. It’s a possibility. I think it’s a very unlikely possibility, and I think the most important thing that you look at the opinions of scientists is very likely that it was of natural origin “said Fauci said.

He said he was “very much for” further investigation into the origins of Covid.

Fauci has been a target of criticism in predominantly Republican circles for much of the pandemic, including from former President Donald Trump, who suggested he would have fired Fauci if he won his re-election.

The publication of more than 3,200 pages of his emails from the first half of 2020 sparked new waves of attacks from conservatives.

Fauci in the interview on Wednesday seemed to be annoyed at times by the flood of criticism. “Lately, everything I say is getting out of context – not by you, but by others,” he told NBC’s Todd.

The points were “just painfully ridiculous,” he said. “I could go the next half hour and go through every single point you made.”

He spoke at length about why the government’s recommendations on wearing masks have changed over time, noting that he was “selected as a villain” on the issue, despite other officials sharing his views at the time.

Initially, Fauci said, masks were believed to be lacking, there was little evidence that masks worked outside of a hospital, and the asymptomatic spread of the virus was not fully known.

As those three factors changed, so did the instructions, he said. “As these data change, as you get more information, it is important that you change your position as you need to be guided by science and the most recent data.”

“People want to fire me or put me in jail for what I’ve done – which is to follow science,” he said.

“It’s absurd, Chuck. Totally absurd.”

Asked about the impact of the politically charged attacks on public health officials last year, Fauci said it was “very dangerous”.

“A lot of what you see as attacks on me are, frankly, attacks on science, because all of the things I’ve talked about from the beginning are fundamentally science-based,” he said.

“Sometimes these things were uncomfortable truths for people, and there was resistance to me. So if you’re trying to reach me as a public health officer and scientist, you’re not just attacking Anthony Fauci, you’re … attacking science, “he said.” And anyone who looks at what’s going on sees it clear.”