In a move that is all but impossible to label as anything but partisan, the White House has blocked their top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, from testifying before a Democratic-controlled House subcommittee next week, but will allow the doctor to testify in front of a Republican-led Senate committee later this month.
After the Washington Post broke the story late Friday, White House spokesman Judd Deere, released a statement that said allowing Fauci to appear before Congress would be “counterproductive” to the government’s coronavirus response teams’ efforts. But Deere conveniently did not mention anything about the doctor’s May 12 scheduled appearance before a Republican-controlled Senate committee.
“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” Deere said. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”
A senior administration official defended the move, telling the Post, “It’s not muzzling, it’s not blocking, it’s simply trying to ensure we’re able to balance the need for oversight, the legitimate need for oversight, with their responsibilities to handle COVID-19 work at their respective agencies and departments.”
And there are no signs that the blatant partisan hypocrisy will not go forward. An aide to the Republican committee chairman, Senator Lamar Alexander, told CNN that he is looking “forward to hearing from Dr. Fauci and other administration officials” on May 12.
Democratic senator from Maryland Chris Van Hollen labeled the move a “gag order” and tweeted “Free Fauci!” while calling for more testing.
“Now Trump wants to impose a gag order to stop Fauci from testifying to Congress. His excuse? That it would be ‘counterproductive.’ Translation: he doesn’t want the public to hear the full truth, like ‘don’t inject disinfectants’ or ‘we need more rapid testing.’ Free Fauci!,” Van Hollen wrote.
Fauci has shown a propensity to speak more freely and honestly than any other government health official, especially when not in the presence of Trump. So it’s not a surprise that this administration would attempt this form of censorship. One would think, with tens of thousands of Americans dead, the country’s foremost expert on infectious diseases would be allowed to discuss the pandemic in any and all forums without political considerations but, sadly, here we are.
Free Fauci, indeed.