Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday addressed the tense exchange he had with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) during a congressional hearing on the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the back-and-forth on Thursday, a clip of which was viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter, Jordan threw a tantrum about the government’s virus mitigation efforts, ranting about guidelines that encourage the use of masks and warn against large gatherings.
Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the country’s top infectious disease expert, said during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday that he doesn’t “enjoy those kinds of confrontations.”
“But it was very, very clear that he was talking about liberties that were being restricted,” Fauci said. “This has nothing to do with liberties, Dana.”
“We’re talking about the fact that 560,000 people in our country have died,” he continued. “We’re talking about ... 70,000 new infections per day. That’s the issue. This is a public health issue. It’s not a civil liberties issue.”
Earlier in the interview, Bash noted that many Republicans are opposed to getting the vaccine. According to a Monmouth University poll conducted earlier this month, 43% of Republicans said they won’t get vaccinated against COVID-19; just 5% of Democrats responded similarly.
“It is quite frustrating because the fact that one may not want to get vaccinated ― in this case, a disturbingly large proportion of Republicans ― only actually works against where they want to be,” Fauci said.
“They want to be able to say these restrictions that are put on by public health recommendations are things that they’re very concerned about,” he added. “We’re all very concerned about that. We share that concern.”
However, Fauci noted, the key to being able to roll back restrictions is to make vaccinations happen as quickly as possible.
“It’s almost paradoxical that on the one hand [Republicans] want to be relieved of the restrictions but on the other hand they don’t want to get vaccinated,” he said. “It just almost doesn’t make any sense.”
Jordan, a frequent critic of Fauci and one of former President Donald Trump’s fiercest defenders, complained Thursday that Americans’ First Amendment rights had been “completely attacked” during the pandemic.
“Americans haven’t been able to go to church,” Jordan said. “Even today, when they go to church, they’re limited to the size of worshippers who can meet. Your right to assemble ― oh my goodness.”
Fauci pushed back, accusing Jordan of “making this a personal thing.”
“My recommendations are not a personal recommendation,” Fauci said. “It is based on the CDC guidance. ... We’re not talking about liberties. We’re talking about a pandemic that has killed 560,000 Americans.”
When Jordan continued to rant after his time had expired, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) told him to “shut your mouth.”