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Dr. Anthony Fauci ran into a buzzsaw named Rep. Jim Jordan when the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases appeared Friday before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
The Ohio Republican asked Fauci a simple question, “Do protests increase the spread of the virus?”
After repeating the question, Fauci said, “I think I can make a general statement — ”
When the doctor paused for a moment, Jordan used the opportunity to point out that on June 6 alone, there were “a half-million protesters.”
“Crowding together, particularly when you’re not wearing a mask, contributes to the spread of the virus,” Fauci then said, finishing his thought.
Jordan followed up by asking him if the government should limit the protests.
Fauci replied by saying that he didn’t think that “relevant.”
When Jordan pressed on the matter, Fauci said, “I’m not in a position to determine what the government can do in a forceful way.”
“Well, you make all kinds of recommendations, you make comments on dating, baseball and everything you can image,” Jordan replied, before asking again should the government limit protests.
“No, I think I would leave that to people who have more of a position to do that,” the doctor said.
The GOP lawmaker reminded Fauci that government is stopping people from going to church, citing the recent Supreme Court decision allowing Nevada to limit church services, before asking if “there’s a world where you can favor one First Amendment liberty — protesting — over another — practicing your faith.”
“I’m not favoring anybody over anybody,” Dr. Fauci responded. “I’m just making a statement that’s a broad statement to avoid crowds of any type no matter where you are because that leads to the acquisition and transmission. I don’t judge one crowd versus another crowd.”
Again, Jordan pressed for an answer, noting that while there have been 63 days of violent protests in Portland, there has been no violence in churches.
Fauci said he would not opine on limiting anything, only to have Jordan interject, “You opine on a lot of things.”
“Well, I’m not going to opine on limiting anything,” Fauci told the lawmaker. “I’m telling you what it is, the danger and you can make your own conclusion about that — you should stay away from crowds no matter where the crowds are.”
Jordan explained that in New Jersey, two gym owners were arrested just for opening their business.
“My bet is if these two individuals who own this gym were outside in front of their gym and all the people working out in the gym were outside protesting, they would have been just fine,” he added. “But because they were in the gym working out, actually running their business they got arrested. Do you think that’s okay?”
Again Fauci deferred, noting that as a public health official he can only point to the activities that should be avoided.
When Jordan asked if he could see the inconsistency, Fauci replied, “There is no inconsistency.”
Of course, Jordan was talking about inconsistency in the stance local and state officials are taking with protesters over businesses, while Fauci was talking about his remark on avoiding crowds.
“So you’re allowed to protest, millions of people on one day, in crowds yelling and screaming, but you try to run your business and you get arrested and if you stood right outside that same business and protested you wouldn’t get arrested — you don’t see an inconsistency?” Jordan asked.
“I don’t understand what you asking me as a public health official to opine on who should get arrested or not. That’s not my position,” the doctor answered.
Jordan was quick to remind Fauci that he “advocated for certain businesses to be shut down.”
It was clear that Fauci had no intention of saying protests should be limited. In fact, when Jordan summarized Fauci’s remarks to suggest that he said protests increase the spread of the virus, the good doctor was quick to correct him.
“I said crowds,” he interrupted. “I didn’t say specifically — I didn’t say protests do anything.”
Jordan pressed for clarity, “So the protest don’t increase the spread?”
“I didn’t say that, you’re putting words in my mouth,” Fauci said, unable to hide his frustration any further.
Not to be deterred, Jordan kept pushing him on whether protests increase the spread of the virus?
Instructively, Fauci said he didn’t have any scientific evidence of that, again falling back to say “crowds are known, particularly when you don’t have a mask, to increase the acquisition and transmission.”
Simply put, he would not use the phrase “protest” over “crowds,” likely knowing full well the political ramifications on the left for doing so.
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