Dr Anthony Fauci has clashed with top Republican Jim Jordan about whether the government should limit protesting across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic during a House subcommittee hearing.
Mr Jordan, a Donald Trump loyalist and representative of Ohio, asked the nation’s top infectious disease expert what his recommendations were for large gatherings – specifically protests – and if they contributed to spreading the novel virus.
“Do protests increase the spread of the virus? I think I can make a general statement,” Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “Crowding together, particularly when you’re not wearing a mask, contributes to spreading the virus.”
“I don’t think that is relevant,” Dr Facui responded. “I’m not in a position of what the government should do in a forceful way.”
His response did not appeal to Mr Jordan, who was using his line of questioning to show how recommendations from Dr Fauci have, in his opinion, just focused on limiting gatherings like going to church but not protests.
“Well you make all kinds of recommendations … government is stopping people from going to church, Dr Fauci,” Mr Jordan said. “I’m just asking if there is a world where you can favour one First Amendment liberty, protesting, over another, practising your faith.”
Dr Fauci responded: “I’m not favouring anybody over anybody. I am 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. And I don’t judge one crowd versus another crowd. When you’re in a crowd, particularly if you are not wearing a mask, that influences the spread.”
The response did not satisfy Mr Jordan, as he made the point that he hasn’t seen “any violence” at church services in recent months compared to the violence seen at protests around the country.
But Dr Fauci held firm that he was making broad recommendations for the American public and not determining specifically what crowds should be allowed and what shouldn’t, as that power remained in the government to make those determinations.