Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan got into a heated exchange with Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday as he grilled the nation’s top coronavirus expert on whether protests should be limited as the pandemic rages on.
“Should the government limit the protesting?” the Republican first asked Fauci, as he testified at the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing.
“I don’t think that’s relevant,” replied Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force.
That led Jordan to point out that Fauci previously said being in a crowd without a mask contributes to the spread of COVID-19.
The fired-up congressman also noted that Americans have been prohibited from going to church and work during the pandemic — even though protests, including violent clashes with authorities in Portland, Oregone, have been allowed to continue.
“I’m just asking is there a world where the constitution says you can favor one First Amendment liberty, protesting, over another, practicing your faith?” Jordan asked.
Fauci replied, “I’m not favoring anybody over anybody. 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. I don’t judge one crowd versus another crowd.”
Jordan continued to point out what he called “inconsistencies” in how America’s handled the pandemic — while referring to two New Jersey gym owners who were arrested Monday for opening up their business.
“So you’re allowed to protest, millions of people on one day in a crowd, yelling, screaming — but you try to run your business, you get arrested?” he asked.
At one point during the tense back-and-forth, a clearly frustrated Fauci accused Jordan of “putting words in my mouth” as the lawmaker tried to goad him into blaming the spread of the virus on the ongoing protests.
“I’m saying that crowds, wherever the crowds are, can give you an increased probability that there’s going to be acquisition and transmission,” Fauci responded.
“But do you understand Americans’ concern? Protests, according to Democrats, is just fine but you can’t go to work, you can’t go to school, you can’t go to church,” Jordan shot back — before committee chair Rep. James Clyburn threw his gavel down, informing the congressman that his five minutes were up.