Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) grilled Dr. Anthony Fauci during a House panel hearing Friday over whether the government should limit ongoing protests, like it has other activities, for fueling the spread of the coronavirus.Oversight Committee / YouTube
“I’m not in a position to determine what the government can do in a forceful way,” a visibly uncomfortable Fauci, the top infectious disease official in the country, said in responding to Jordan’s questions during the hearing by the House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
“You make all kinds of recommendations,” Jordan noted. “You made comments on dating, on baseball, on everything you can imagine … you just said that protesting increased the spread. I’m just asking, should we try to limit the protesting?”
“No, I think I would leave that to people who have more of a position to do that,” Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said.
Initially, Fauci was reluctant to say “protests” or anything related are helping spread COVID-19 (coronavirus disease), providing a general statement about how all “crowding together particularly when you’re not wearing a mask, contributes to the spread of the virus.”
“I didn’t say protests do anything,” Fauci said.
After Jordan submitted news articles for the record later during the hearing, quoting Fauci condemning protests as potential breeding grounds for COVID-19 weeks earlier, the infectious disease expert said:
Like I said, any crowd, any crowd, whether it’s a protest or any crowd in which you have people close together without masks, is a risk. And I’ll stick by that statement. It’s a public health statement. It’s not a judgment on why you’re there in the crowd. It’s a statement related to the fact that you’re in a crowd.
U.S. President Donald Trump praised Rep. Jordan for his questions via social media, retweeting the Republican lawmaker’s tweet about the incidence.
Can’t go to church.
Can’t go to work.
Can’t go to school.
Even Dr. Fauci says protesting is dangerous.
But Democrats encourage people to riot and protest in the streets. pic.twitter.com/78Dyjkt6D6
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) July 31, 2020
Great job by Jim Jordan, and also some very good statements by Tony Fauci. Big progress being made! https://t.co/8Oeca9H3yq
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2020
At the local and state level, some health officials have expressed concerns that protests may contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects both the freedoms to protest, and of religion, Jordan argued.
He also noted that the government prevents some people from going to work to help hinder the spread of the virus.
“Government is stopping people from going to church, Dr. Fauci,” the Ohio Republican pointed out, later adding, “You’ve advocated for certain businesses to be shut down.”
Jordan asked, “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 replied.
Jordan noted that Fauci should respond to his questions because protesting “directly impacts the spread of the virus.”
“I’m not going to opine on limiting anything,” the doctor said. “I’m telling you what it is the danger. And you can make your own conclusion about that.”
Ultimately, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, put an end to Jordan’s line of questioning, telling the Republican his time had expired.
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