At a House subcommittee hearing on Friday, Rep. Jim Jordan, of Ohio, pressed Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, to condemn the widespread protests against police brutality.
Jordan insisted that if citizens are kept from going to church or opening their businesses, it would make sense for the government to “limit the protests” as well. Fauci did not bite, only repeating that crowds “of any type, no matter where you are” have the potential to increase chances of acquiring and transmitting the virus.
You can watch their exchange here, via PBS.
Jordan’s First Words to Fauci at the Start of the Hearing Were, ‘Do Protests Increase the Spread of the Virus?’
Jordan opened his line of questioning at the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Select Coronavirus Crisis hearing by hurriedly asking Fauci, while looking away from him, “Do protests increase the spread of the virus?”
Fauci appeared confused. “Do protests increase the spread of the virus?” he repeated back to Jordan. “I think I can make a general statement —”
“Well, half a million protesters on June 6 alone, and I’m just asking, that number of people, does it increase the spread?” Jordan interjected.
Fauci refused to directly condemn or support the protests, insisting that as a public health official, he can only make the general recommendation that people avoid crowds during the pandemic.
“Crowding together, particularly when you’re not wearing a mask, contributes to the spread of the virus,” Fauci affirmed, before Jordan jumped back in.
“Should we limit the protesting?” he said, adding that Fauci has made “all kinds of recommendations … on dating, on baseball.”
Jordan also took issue with the fact that people are currently prohibited in most states from gathering inside for church, but are able to gather outside to protest police brutality. He referenced a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding Nevada’s 50-person cap on worship services.
“There’s no violence that I can see at church,” Jordan said. “I haven’t seen people at church go out and harm police officers and burn buildings.”
Still, Fauci would not directly address the protests.
“I don’t get why you’re asking me, as a public health official, to opine on who should get arrested or not,” Fauci said. “That’s not my position. You can ask me as much as you want, but I’m not going to answer.”
Jordan Later on Twitter Claimed Fauci Said ‘Protesting is Dangerous’ & That Democrats ‘Encourage People to Riot & Protest in the Streets’
Jordan later posted a C-SPAN clip of the exchange between him and Fauci to Twitter and claimed — despite the fact that Fauci did not say protesting is dangerous — that the doctor “says protesting is dangerous.”
“Can’t go to church. Can’t go to work. Can’t go to school. Even Dr. Fauci says protesting is dangerous,” Jordan wrote. “But Democrats encourage people to riot and protest in the streets.”
The New York Times reported earlier this month that in many cases, people protesting the killing of George Floyd wore masks, while protesters against the coronavirus lockdown of businesses and churches largely did not.
Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health Ashish Jha told the Times that she was conflicted about the anti-racism protests mid-epidemic.
“Do I worry that mass protests will fuel more cases? Yes I do,” she said. “But a dam broke, and there’s no stopping that.”
Public health experts determined that there was little evidence protests in Minneapolis, New York and Washington, D.C., contributed to new outbreaks of the virus, the Associated Press reported. Rather, new outbreaks seemed linked first to maskless parties and social gatherings and, secondly, to physically reporting to work.
Progressive historian and prolific tweeter Kevin Kruse trolled Jordan a bit, replying to his Tweet with a quote of Jordan’s own from around the time anti-lockdown protesters stormed Ohio’s capitol.
Portland, Oregon, is the site of the most highly-publicized, incendiary protests of late. The state reported 304 new cases on July 29, with an ongoing daily average of around 33, Oregon Live reported. The state’s most recent numbers indicate around 318 deaths so far.