The White House Press Briefing Room Tuesday descended into chaos after Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre blocked a conservative reporter from asking a thorny question of Dr. Anthony Fauci. The briefing was Fauci’s last, as the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director prepares to retire from his government post by the end of the year.
For the most part, the reporters lobbed softball questions at Fauci, such as how much protection the flu vaccine offers, what he wants Americans to remember about him, COVID-19 variants in other parts of the world and whether people should be afraid to wear masks. The Grio Correspondent and CNN Political Analyst April Ryan asked Fauci if he can “talk about the importance of mask-wearing" for the holidays and how families should treat their unvaccinated members.
But the first outburst came when the Daily Caller News Foundation’s Diana Glebova called out, “Dr. Fauci, what did you personally do to investigate the origins of COVID?”
The origin of COVID has become a touchy subject after Fauci was found to have lied under oath to Congress about the origin of the virus.
Some reporters immediately began scolding Glebova – “Disrespectful! Disrespectful!” - as Jean-Pierre returned to the podium to sharply reprimand her: “You’re being disrespectful.”
But New York Post Correspondent Steven Nelson came to her aid. “That’s a major part of your legacy though, Dr. Fauci,” Nelson pressed. “Do you have an answer to that?”
“Wait, I did not call on you, Steven,” said Jean-Pierre, turning to call on another reporter. When that reporter was finished, Jean-Pierre refused to give Glebova or Nelson an opportunity to ask a question and turned to another one of their colleagues.
That’s when Glebova tried again.
“What have you done personally to investigate the originals of COVID?” she called out to Fauci.
“Hold on one second,” said Jean-Pierre as she resumed the podium. “We have a process here. I’m not calling out on people who yell. And you’re being —”
“You call on the same people every single time,” said Glebova.
“You’re being — you’re being disrespectful to your colleagues, and you’re being disrespectful to our guests,” responded Jean-Pierre. “I will not call on you if you yell. And also, you’re taking time off the clock because Dr. Fauci has to leave in a couple of minutes.”
One of the other reporters, likely the one who expressed pride for wearing a mask, again accused Glebova of “being disrespectful.”
“I’m done. I’m not going — I’m not getting into a back-and-forth with you,” Jean-Pierre told Glebova.
But some of Glebova’s colleagues also wanted an answer from Fauci before he rode into the professional sunset.
“Can we get an answer to the question?” Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett asked.
“We need an answer, Dr. Fauci, on the COVID origins,” The Post’s Nelson said to Fauci. “Why are we still funding the EcoHealth Alliance, Dr. Fauci? Why are they getting millions of more dollars?”
“You need to call on people from across the room,” added Today News Africa’s Simon Ateba. “She has a valid question. She’s asking about the origins of COVID and Dr. Fauci is the best person to answer.”
But Jean-Pierre refused to allow the question.
“I hear the question,” Jean-Pierre responded. “I hear your question, but we’re not doing this the way you want it. This is disrespectful … Simon, I’m done. I’m done with you right now … you’re taking time away from your colleagues.”
Last month it was revealed that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has indeed funded another gain-of-function research project involving coronavirus.