California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters complained on Sunday that the Biden administration’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “was being bullied” by House Oversight and Reform subcommittee colleague Rep. Jim Jordan last week, which then led her to tell the Ohio Republican to “shut your mouth” as he continued to press for answers.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart, Waters said that for her, the hearing was a chance to have Fauci provide Congress with the latest updates and information regarding the enduring pandemic.
“While he was there, and he has so much credibility, he was being bullied, and there was an attempt to basically shut him down by Congressman Jordan,” she told Capehart as she explained why she interjected.
“We only have limited time. We only have five minutes each, and he does not respect the chair. He does not respect the other members. He speaks over time,” Waters continued.
Her outburst came at the conclusion of a tense back-and-forth between Fauci and Jordan, who was pressing the country’s chief immunologist to provide specifics as to when Americans could expect to return to pre-COVID-19 conditions in terms of ditching masks, ending social distancing requirements, and other pandemic-related restrictions.
Though Jordan’s time had expired, he continued to press Fauci for a specific answer to his question about what conditions would have to exist before Americans could begin living normal lives and reclaim their civil and constitutional liberties.
“You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth,” Waters admonished.
In her interview, she told Capehart she felt compelled to speak up.
“I simply tried to, you know, intervene in the way that — to tell him what needed to be said,” she said. “I know that I’m different from a lot of politicians, and I do, you know, take the opportunity to say what I think needs to be said at a particular time, and that’s what I did.”
On Thursday when the exchange between Jordan and Fauci took place, the Ohio conservative began his five-minute inquiry by seizing upon comments the chief medical adviser made during his opening statement, notably that for the foreseeable future Americans would need to continue masking up, socially distance, and observe additional restrictions including for those who have had the virus and those who have gotten vaccinated.
“When is the time? When is the time?” Jordan pressed. “When do Americans get their freedom back?”
“What is low enough?” Jordan interjected. “Give me a number. We had ’15 days to slow the spread’ — turned into one year of lost liberty. What metrics, what measures, what has to happen?”
“My message…is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can to get the level of infection in this country low so that is no longer a threat,” Fauci responded. “That is when, and I believe when that happens, you’ll see…”
“What determines when?” Jordan interrupted again. “What? What measure? I mean, are we just going to continue this forever? When do we get to the point — what measure, what standard, what objective outcome do we have to reach before Americans get their liberty and freedoms back?”
As Jordan continued to hit on the theme of constitutional liberties he noted that millions of Americans had been prevented from exercising their First Amendment rights to gather freely to air grievances and in houses of worship, among other rights, but Fauci pushed back on that.
“You know, you’re indicating ‘liberty and freedom,’ I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to the hospital,” said Fauci.
“You don’t think Americans’ liberties have been threatened the last year, Dr. Fauci? They’ve been assaulted, their liberties have,” Jordan fired back.
“I don’t look at this as a liberty thing, Congressman Jordan, I look at this as a public health thing,” Fauci said. “I disagree with you on that completely.”
On Sunday, Fauci told CNN he believed that accusations and comments like those expressed by Jordan are “quite frustrating.”
“I don’t enjoy those kind of confrontations, but, I mean, it was very, very clear that he was talking about the liberties that were being restricted,” Fauci told host Dana Bash.
“This has nothing to do with liberty, Dana. We’re talking about the fact that 560,000 people in our country have died,” he noted, adding: “We’re talking about [60,000] to 70,000 new infections per day. That’s the issue. This is a public health issue. It’s not a civil liberties issue.”
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