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Jim Jordan presses Fauci on protests, COVID-19

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanGOP votes to replace Cheney with Stefanik after backing from Trump Roy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position Stefanik shake-up jump-starts early jockeying for committee posts MORE (R-Ohio) pressed Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci: COVID-19 vaccine could lead to 'breakthrough' in HIV fight GOP lawmaker calls for Wuhan probe to 'prevent the next pandemic' Trump bemoans lack of vaccine credit amid mask news MORE with a series of combative questions on Friday, asking him whether the government should limit protests to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Jordan, a close ally of President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE and member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, drilled down on Fauci at a House hearing, echoing an argument often made by conservatives that there is a double standard when liberals and some public health experts support widespread Black Lives Matter protests, which bring together thousands of people, but push for restrictions on other gatherings like those at churches.

Fauci did not address the protests directly, but said more broadly: "Avoid crowds of any type no matter where you are ... I don't judge one crowd versus another crowd."

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Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) later pushed back on Jordan's comments, pointing to the importance of the civil rights movement protests. "I'm sitting here as the result of a protest," he said. 

Clyburn pointed to his 60-year relationship with the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisManchin breaking with Democrats on voting rights Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw Abrams issues sharp rebuke to Arizona GOP governor for signing 'devastating anti-voter bill' MORE (D-Ga.), who has been honored with a series of tributes this week. 

"We met protesting, trying to get off the back of the bus, trying to integrate schools," Clyburn said. "I'm glad the government did not limit our protest." 

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While it is hard to know for sure how much the protests have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus, there have not been widespread clear spikes in cases due to them.

Protests are outside, which helps reduce transmission, and many attendees at protests wore and continue to wear masks. Still, Fauci noted it is a risk any time there are crowds of people.

When Jordan pressed for a direct answer on the protests, saying, "So the protests don't increase the spread of the virus?" Fauci shot back: "I didn't say that, you're putting words in my mouth."

"I just want an answer to the question, do the protests increase the spread of the virus?" Jordan said.

"I can tell you that crowds are known, particularly when you don't have a mask, to increase the acquisition and transmission, no matter what the crowd is," Fauci replied.

Asked if the government should limit the protests, as it has other gatherings like those at churches, Fauci said that is not for him to decide.

"I'm not in a position to determine what the government can do in a forceful way," Fauci said.

Jordan later responded to Clyburn by expressing concern for police officers responding to the protests, saying he's "not talking about the violence, but the exposure they have to the coronavirus," urging officials to track that data.