WASHINGTON (WJW) — Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan got into a heated discussion with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, over the role protesting may or may not have played in the spread of the coronavirus.
Jordan questioned Fauci during a House hearing on coronavirus Friday, asking whether protests should be limited in wake of the pandemic.
When asked if protests increase the spread of COVID-19, Fauci said he could make a general statement about virus spread and lack of social distancing.
“Do protests increase the spread of the virus? Uh, I think I can make a general statement…” said Fauci. “Crowding together, particularly when you’re not wearing a mask contributes to the spread of the virus.”
Jordan continued pressing Fauci, asking if the government should limit protesting.
Rep. Jim Jordan: “Should government limit the protesting?”
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “I don’t think that’s relevant to…”
Rep. Jim Jordan: “Well, you just said if it increases the spread of the virus, I’m just asking, should we limit it?”
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Well, I’m, I’m not in a position to determine what the government can do in a forceful way…”
Rep. Jim Jordan: “You make all kinds of recommendations. You know, you made comments on dating on baseball and everything you can imagine. I’m just asking you, you just said protests increased the spread. I’m just asking you. Should we try to limit the protest?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “I think I would leave that to people who have more of a position to do that. I can tell you…”
Jordan refuted Fauci’s answer, saying just last week the Supreme Court ruled it was okay for the state of Nevada to limit church services due to virus precautions. He continued on, “Government is stopping people from going to church, Dr. Fauci. Last week in the Calvary Chapel Case five liberals on the Supreme Court said it was okay for Nevada to limit church services. Go ahead. I mean, Justice Gorsuch said it best. He said there’s no, there’s no world in which the constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesar’s Palace over Calvary Chapel. 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.”
“I’m not favoring anybody over anybody,” Fauci answered. “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. And I don’t judge one crowd versus another crowd.”
Jordan cited additional examples, including a recent protest in Chicago in which 49 police officers were injured, and compared them all to the church service ruling.
In response, Fauci maintained his initial assertion, saying he is not in the position to curb political protests.
“I don’t know how many times I can answer that. I’m not going to opine on limiting anything,” said Fauci. “I’m telling you what it is, the danger, and you can make your own conclusion about that.”
Jordan went on to say, “Oh, you see the inconsistency though. Dr. Fauci? So you’re allowed to protest millions of people on one day in crowds, yelling, screaming, but you try to run your business. You get arrested. And if you stood right outside of that same business and protested, you wouldn’t get arrested. You don’t see any consistency there?”
The health director reiterated that “there is no inconsistency” in his statements and said it is not his position as a public health official to “opine on who should get arrested or not.”