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Fauci defends Jerome Adams's remarks on African American alcohol, tobacco usage amid pandemic

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSlew of Biden orders on COVID to include resuming WHO membership Biden to sign flurry of executive actions in first hours of presidency COVID-19 is a precursor for infectious disease outbreaks on a warming planet MORE, a top infectious disease doctor and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, pushed back when a PBS reporter asked Surgeon General Jerome AdamsJerome AdamsNebraska governor wrong on immigrant vaccinations State and federal officials wrestle over vaccine rollout, delays Overnight Health Care: Frustration builds over slow pace of vaccine rollout | Surgeon general tells states not to let priority guidelines slow vaccinations | COVID-19 test used by Congress could give false results, FDA warns MORE to comment on whether or not he thought he used "offensive language" when he urged African Americans to avoid using alcohol and tobacco. 

"You said that African-Americans and Latinos should avoid alcohol, drugs and tobacco. You also said do it for Big Momma and Pop Pop," said PBS's Yamiche Alcindor to Adams during Friday's White House press briefing.

"I said granddaddy, too," Adams noted.

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"There are some people online who are already offended by that language and the idea that behaviors may be leading to these high death rates. Could you, I guess, have a response to those who might be offended by the language you used?" Alcindor asked. 

Adams responded, saying that he used vernacular that he uses with his own family members. 

"I've been meeting with the NAACP, with the National Medical Association. I actually talked with Derek Johnson multiple times this week, the head of the NAACP, and we need targeted outreach to the African American community," Adams responded. "And I used the language that is used in my family. I have a Puerto Rican brother-in-law. I call my granddaddy, 'granddaddy.' I have relatives who call their grandparents, 'Big Mama.' So that was not meant to be offensive."

"That is the language we use, and that I use, and we need to continue to target our outreach to those communities. It is critically important that they understand it's not just about them. We need to do our part at the federal level, we need people to do their parts at the state level. And we need everyone, black, brown, white, whatever color you are, to follow the president's coronavirus guidelines," he said.

Alcindor then asked if Adams would recommend that all Americans avoid behaviors such as smoking and drinking that would put them at risk for infection. 

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Adams responded, "Absolutely." 

After Adams finished speaking, Fauci made a gesture from the sidelines, indicating that he would like to take to make a comment at the podium. President TrumpDonald TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports MORE then invited Fauci back on to the small stage in the press room and defended Adams, saying the comment was not offensive.

"Jerome, you did it beautifully. You can't do it any better than that," said Fauci. "I know Jerome personally. I can just testify that he made no — not even a hint of being offensive at all with that comment."

Statistics continue to show that black and Latino communities are disproportionately impacted by the novel coronavirus, with federal and state lawmakers under increased pressure to release the racial breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The U.S. death toll overall currently stands at 17,947, according to a New York Times tracker, with cases exceeding 483,000.