Dr. Anthony Fauci clashed with Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan (R) at a House subcommittee hearing on Friday over whether the government should crack down on protests to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Jordan, one of President Donald Trump’s biggest defenders on Capitol Hill, repeatedly asked Fauci to weigh in on whether widespread protests helped to spread COVID-19.
Fauci said that in general, large crowds, particularly those including people who aren’t wearing masks, contribute to higher infection and transmission rates.
“Should the government limit the protesting?” Jordan asked.
“I don’t think that’s relevant,” Fauci said, adding, “I’m not in a position to determine what the government can do in a forceful way.”
Jordan pressed Fauci, saying, “You make all kinds of recommendations.”
The GOP lawmaker said that some state governments were limiting people attending indoor church services and asked Fauci, “Is there a world where the Constitution says you can favor one First Amendment liberty, protesting, over another, practicing your faith?”
“I’m not favoring anybody over anybody,” Fauci said. “I’m just making a statement that’s a broad statement, that avoid crowds of any type, no matter where you are, because that leads to the acquisition and transmission. And I don’t judge one crowd versus another crowd. When you’re in a crowd, particularly if you’re not wearing a mask, that induces the spread.”
“I haven’t seen people during a church service go out and harm police officers or burn buildings, but we know that for 63 days, nine weeks, it’s been happening in Portland,” Jordan said, referring to the protests against racism and police brutality in the city since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day. Many of the demonstrations devolved into violence after federal law-enforcement agents used tear gas, rubber bullets, and other materials to disperse protesters.
There’s “no limit to protests,” Jordan said, but “you can’t go to church on Sunday.”
“I don’t know how many times I can answer that,” Fauci responded. “I’m not going to opine on limiting anything.”
Jordan fired back, telling Fauci he had “opined on a lot of things.”
“You should stay away from crowds, no matter where the crowds are,” Fauci said.
“Government has stopped people from going to work,” Jordan said, citing reports about two people who were arrested after reopening their gym. He added, “Do you see the inconsistency though, Dr. Fauci?”
Fauci said there was “no inconsistency.” Jordan replied, “You’re allowed to protest — millions of people on one day, in crowds, yelling, screaming — but you try to run your business, you get arrested?”
Fauci, who appeared to be growing increasingly frustrated, said: “I don’t understand what you’re asking me, as a public-health official, to opine on who should get arrested or not. That’s not my position. You could ask me as much as you want, and I’m not going to answer it.”
Jordan then claimed that Fauci had said protests increased the spread of the virus, but Fauci pushed back. “I said crowds,” he said. “I didn’t say specifically — I didn’t say protests.”
“So the protests don’t increase the spread of the virus?” Jordan said.
“I didn’t say that,” Fauci said. “You’re putting words in my mouth.”
He added: “I can tell you that crowds are known, particularly when you don’t have a mask, to increase the acquisition and transmission, no matter what the crowd is.”
“That’s not what’s happening. That’s my point. People can’t go to church, can’t go to work,” Jordan said before running out of time. Fauci laughed and appeared to wave off the lawmaker’s remarks.
“That goes for the Democrats and Republicans,” Clyburn shot back. “I’ll make the decision as to who was out of order. I’m going to be as gentlemanly as you will allow me to be.”
It’s great having lawmakers who love nothing more than to lie and bend the facts. https://t.co/NEEPg83n12
— Ian Livingston (@islivingston) July 31, 2020