The comments were immediately questioned by a PBS reporter, who said they’d stirred outrage online, and roundly condemned by progressives including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who said they amplified claims about minority populations engaging in risky behaviors.
“Donald Trump has found a new vessel by which to spew his racist dog whistles: his Surgeon General Jerome Adams,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said in an April 10 statement. “Jerome Adams used his five minutes of fame to do Trump’s dirty work and insult African Americans and other communities of color.”
Adams already has been criticized for amplifying some of Trump’s messages, like that the flu would end up being more dangerous than the coronavirus, while breaking with the president’s embrace of unproven anti-malaria drugs to treat Covid-19.
But Adams’ allies in the administration also say his recent comments on racial disparities were taken out of context, noting that his five minutes of remarks dealt with issues like structural inequality and Adams’ own history as an asthmatic patient.
Pressed by PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor at the April 10 press briefing, Adams said he used terms like “big mama” because they’re familiar from his own family’s experience and that he wants all Americans to avoid substances like alcohol and tobacco at all times.
Fauci stepped in to defend Adams, too. “I know Jerome personally, and I can just testify that he made no — not even a hint— of being offensive at all with that comment. I thought that was appropriate,” Fauci said.