Anthony S. Fauci’s appearances before congressional committees have included an increasing degree of exasperation from the nation’s top infectious-disease expert — particularly under conspiratorial questioning from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). But the most heated exchange Tuesday involved one of Paul’s colleagues, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), whom Fauci soon labeled a “moron.”

What was particularly striking about it was that Marshall did not quite seem to know precisely what he was asking about. He brought up the idea that Fauci had not shared financial disclosures like other government officials, and when Fauci assured him that he had and that they were available, Marshall resumed talking about it as if Fauci had granted his premise.

It’s worth an explainer.

Here’s their exchange, broken down:

MARSHALL: Yes or no, would you be willing to submit to Congress and the public a financial disclosure that includes your past and current investments? After all, your colleague, [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle] Walensky and every member of Congress submits a financial disclosure that includes their investments.
FAUCI: I don’t understand why you’re asking me that question. My financial disclosure is public knowledge and has been so for the last 37 years or so, 35 years.

At this point, Marshall argued — without explaining himself — that somehow “Big Tech” was preventing the disclosure of Fauci’s investments:

MARSHALL: The Big Tech giants are doing an incredible job of keeping it from being public. We’ll continue to look for it. Where would we find it?
FAUCI: All you have to do is ask for it. You’re so misinformed. It’s extraordinary. All you have to do is ask for it.

Marshall resumed talking about it as if some potential conspiracy were involved:

MARSHALL: This is a huge issue. Wouldn’t you agree with me that you see things before members of Congress would see them —
FAUCI: What?
MARSHALL: -- So that there’s an air of appearance that maybe some shenanigans are going on. You know, I don’t think that that’s -- I assume that’s not the case.
FAUCI: Senator, what are you talking about?
MARSHALL: I assume it's not the case.
FAUCI: My financial disclosures are public knowledge, and have been so. You are getting amazingly wrong information.
MARSHALL: So, what -- I cannot find them. Our office cannot find them. Where would they be, if they’re public knowledge?
CHAIRWOMAN PATTY MURRAY (D-WASH.): Senator?
MARSHALL: Where?
FAUCI: It is totally accessible to you, if you want it.
MARSHALL: For the public? Is that accessible to the public?
FAUCI: To the public.
MARSHALL: Okay.
FAUCI: To the public. You are totally incorrect.
MARSHALL: We look forward to reviewing it.

It was shortly after this that Fauci offered his hot-mic remark. “What a moron,” Fauci said, before adding, “Jesus Christ.”

Marshall did virtually nothing to elaborate on where his line of questioning came from at the time. But it seems to stem from a recent effort by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch to get extended disclosures about Fauci’s records involving supposed potential conflicts of interest and other matters.

What Marshall specifically asked about — financial disclosures that include investments — is indeed something Fauci must disclose and has disclosed, like many other government officials. Shortly after the exchange, plenty of people pointed to the very-online record of Fauci’s 2020 financial disclosure, which lists his investments.

Fauci’s 2021 document, though, is not readily available — and it’s among those Judicial Watch has asked for. An organization involved in the case has said a judge ordered disclosures requested starting Feb. 1.

A Marshall spokesman Wednesday morning argued that “Fauci’s financial disclosures for the years of the covid pandemic are not public” because “one has to file a [Freedom of Information Act request] to get them and then wait an undetermined length of time and then they get something that is heavily redacted.”

National Institutes of Health spokeswoman Emma Wojtowicz told The Washington Post, “Judicial Watch is suing on behalf of the organization American Transparency, who submitted the [Freedom of Information Act] request in an incorrect manner.”

Asked for clarification on what was incorrect, Wojtowicz said, “We don’t comment on litigation,” but pointed to the specific form required.

Another spokeswoman said, “Public financial disclosure reports are releasable through the Ethics in Government Act, not through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).”

The effort stems from a long-running but often shoddy effort to argue that Fauci might have benefited financially from the pandemic. Last summer, this involved repeated suggestions that he was profiting from an upcoming book about the pandemic response. It turned out Fauci wasn’t taking any royalties from the book.

For Fauci to have profited from the pandemic in some unknown way, though, would suggest new, undisclosed investments he entered into at the start of the pandemic — after December 2019. There has been plenty of scrutiny of certain senators’ conveniently timed stock trades early in the pandemic, although there’s no evidence Fauci engaged in this.

It seems eminently possible that this is a symptom of the government’s often slow response to disclosure requests, rather than anything Fauci himself did. The same reporter who shared the 2020 Fauci disclosure that she had obtained, after all, noted that it had taken 2½ months to get a response — a time frame that is not uncommon for such requests.

There remains no evidence that Fauci personally has declined to release his financial disclosures or that “Big Tech” — rather than government bureaucracy — is responsible for them not currently being in the public domain.

This post has been updated with further comment from the NIH.