Democrat gets in heated exchange with Pompeo at hearing: 'Do you believe coronavirus is a hoax?'

A House hearing on Friday that was meant to address the U.S. strategy in Iran blew up into a heated confrontation over the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus.

The purpose of Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS to label white supremacist group as terrorist organization for first time Trump administration eyes Afghan security forces funding for aid cut: report Trump says 40,000 Americans have been repatriated who were stranded abroad MORE's appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee was to discuss the early January drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and escalated tensions with the country. But the hearing quickly turned into a debate over the deadly virus, which has spread globally.

In one of the more heated moments, Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuHouse Armed Services chairman calls for removal of Navy chief Overnight Defense: Trump 'may look into' dismissal of Navy captain | Acting Navy chief stands by speech calling ousted captain 'stupid' | Dems call for chief's firing | Hospital ship to take coronavirus patients Democratic lawmakers call for Navy chief's firing MORE (D-Calif.) confronted Pompeo, asking him if he believes "the coronavirus is a hoax." He pointed to White House acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOne year in, Democrats frustrated by fight for Trump tax returns Meadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE's comments earlier in the day claiming news media were ignoring the coronavirus until now because outlets were too focused on President TrumpDonald John TrumpOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report MORE's impeachment before that, which he called a "hoax."

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"Donald Trump's chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC] that the coronavirus was the hoax of the day," Lieu said. "Do you agree with Donald Trump's chief of staff Mulvaney that the coronavirus is the hoax of the day?"

"The State Department is doing everything it can to protect American citizens around the world," Pompeo began replying before Lieu interrupted.

"Do you believe coronavirus is a hoax?" Lieu said.

"I'm not going to comment on what others are saying," Pompeo replied. "I'm just telling you what the secretary of State is doing."

"It's not even a gotcha question," Lieu continued. "Do you believe the coronavirus is a hoax?"

"It is a gotcha moment," Pompeo said. "It's not useful."

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Asked again, Pompeo said: "We're taking it seriously."

Lieu went on to call it "shameful" that Pompeo wouldn't say coronavirus is not a hoax, while scolding Pompeo for attending CPAC later in the day.

After the hearing, he shared the exchange on Twitter, accusing Pompeo of "being too scared to even say [the coronavirus] is not a hoax."

Democrats have been hammering the Trump administration in recent days over its plans to address the rapidly spreading coronavirus, which the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled on Friday as being a high-level threat.

China has reported nearly 79,000 total cases of the virus to WHO, including 2,791 deaths. Outside China, the WHO said there are now 4,351 cases in 49 countries, and 67 deaths.

Trump announced this week that Vice President Pence would lead efforts to address the coronavirus, and has hit back against Democrats' criticism, saying he has prevented the spread by ending certain flights.

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Friday's hearing almost immediately turned to the coronavirus, when Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineLocal news outlets struggle to survive coronavirus fallout The Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' MORE (D-R.I.) used the first question of the hearing to ask about it.

Pompeo responded, “Just so you know, we agreed that I would come here to talk about Iran. The first question today is not about Iran.”