Republicans tried - and failed - to distract from Trump’s conviction with Covid hearing chaos

The hearing could have been a chance for Republicans to show voters that they cared about good governance and accountability. That’s not what happened

Eric Garcia
Monday 03 June 2024 22:28 BST
Marjorie Taylor Greene verbally berates Anthony Fauci during House Covid-19 hearing

House Republicans had a chance to move the news cycle on from a Manhatten jury finding former president Donald Trump, their nominee for the White House, guilty on 34 counts.

Instead, they wound up humiliating themselves on national television during a truly unhinged House hearing with retired Covid-19 czar, Dr Anthony Fauci.

With half of Americans supporting the Trump guilty verdict, Republicans needed a moment that was more than a circus, serving red meat to their right-wing base, but one that made them palatable to moderates and undecided voters.

This hearing could have been a chance to show voters that they cared about good governance and accountability. Instead, it resembled the chaos of Merrick Garland’s contempt of Congress markup last month, which included Marjorie Taylor Greene mocking Representative Jasmine Crockett’s fake eyelashes — and Crockett responding with a “bleach blonde bad-built butch body” retort that will live on infamy.

Somehow, Republicans on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic managed to outdo even that debacle. As soon as she was up for questioning, Greene berated Fauci, refusing to call him a doctor, insisting he belongs “in prison,” and accusing the National Institutes of Health of funding medical experiments on beagles.

“You know what this committee should be doing? We should be recommending you to be prosecuted. We should be writing a criminal referral because you should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity,” she screeched. “You belong in prison, Dr. Fauci!”

Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia personally apologized for Greene’s off-the-rails behavior saying it “might be the most insane hearing I’ve actually attended!”

But the hearing was nothing but an attempted distraction from the start.

The GOP has tried time and again to push theories that Dr Fauci, former head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases who became a ubiquitous presence during the early days of the pandemic, was somehow responsible for the proliferation of the virus.

Republicans have tried to put a respectable face on their investigation, enlisting Ohio Republican Brad Wenstrup, a retiring podiatrist, as their chairman. Unlike some of his brasher colleagues, it was sometimes hard to make out what he was saying to Fauci and his fellow Republicans on the dais.

But that did not matter. The hearing was always bound to feature conspiracy theorists, cranks and charlatans. Naturally, people showed up in shirts that said “Got Ivermectin” - the horse dewormer that anti-vaxxers erroneously claimed treated Covid. Others wore shirts with the likeness of Ashli Babbitt, the Jan 6 rioter who was fatally shot by an officer shot as she tried to breach the Capitol doors. When Fauci arrived, attendees heckled him, saying he was responsible for their loved ones’ deaths.

Republicans did not seem interested in Fauci’s answers, prefering to use their time to grandstand. At no point was this more apparent than when Fauci asked Oversight Committe Chairman James Comer if he could “finish the answer.” Comer shot back: “No, because I’ve got a lot of questions.”

Wenstrup and others, including Representative Michael Cloud of Texas, asked about the efficacy of vaccines. Meanwhile, Representative Jim Jordan, chairman of the Judiciary Committee who failed to become Speaker last year, spent most of his time asking rapid-fire questions and giving Fauci little to no time to respond.

Of course, Republicans needed fireworks with Fauci to justify creating a whole subcommittee on Covid-19 and its origins. But without damning evidence, it didn’t work.

Greene was not the only Republican who asked Fauci about experiments on dogs. New York’s Nicole Malliotakis, who bills herself as more moderate than Greene, also asked the doctor about dog experiments as well as royalty payments for developing treatments, as if to imply there was a conflict of interest. (Fauci has previously said he donates royalty payments.)

Of course, Republicans’ antics just gave Democrats room to mock their colleagues, with Representative Jamie Raskin noting the GOP “are treating you, Dr. Fauci, like a convicted felon.”

“They treat convicted felons with love and admiration. Some of them blindly worship convicted felons,” he quipped.

Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat who led the Florida Division of Emergency Management during the pandemic under Governor Ron DeSantis, also took shots at Republicans.

“Colleagues on this body said you should be charged and found guilty. Of course, the only one that’s happened to is your former boss,” he said to Fauci.

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