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Nicki Minaj vs. Chris Whitty: chief medical officer takes on rap star

Unlikely face-off sparked by her tweets questioning safety of Covid-19 vaccine

The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered many previously undreamed-of scenarios, from bans on sitting on park benches to the then US president suggesting that people inject themselves with bleach to ward off the virus. 

But few have been more bizarre than this week’s very public showdown between the UK government’s chief medical adviser Chris Whitty and Trinidad-born rap star Nicki Minaj.

The unlikely spat was sparked by a series of tweets from Minaj questioning the safety of Covid-19 vaccines. Prior to Monday evening’s Met Gala Ball in New York, the Super Bass chart-topper announced that she wasn’t planning to attend the event, which enforced a vaccination requirement for guests.

“If I get vaccinated it won’t for the Met,” she tweeted to her more than 22m followers. “It’ll be once I feel I’ve done enough research.”

In response to questions about this “research”, and accusations of being an anti-vaxxer, Minaj followed up with a now-viral tweet claiming that a friend of her cousin suffered swollen testicles and became impotent after getting the inoculated against Covid. 

Whitty then waded into the row after being questioned about Minaj’s claim during a Downing Street yesterday afternoon. Speaking alongside Boris Johnson, the medical expert said: “There are a number of myths which fly around, some of which are clearly ridiculous and are clearly designed just to scare.”

People “who go around trying to discourage other people from taking a vaccine which could be life-saving” by “peddling untruths” should be “ashamed”, he added.

The prime minister had a pop too. “I am not as familiar with the works of Nicki Minaj as I probably should be,” Johnson told reporters, “but I am familiar with Nikki Kanani, a superstar GP from Bexley who has appeared many times before you who will tell you that vaccines are wonderful and everybody should get them.”

“I prefer to listen to Nikki Kanani,” he concluded.

Minaj appeared unoffended by what she described as the PM’s “diss”. 

But she got her own back by posting an audio clip directed at Johnson in which she spoke in a fake British accent and claimed she attended Oxford University and “went to school with Margaret Thatcher”.

“I’d love to send you my portfolio of my work, since you don’t know much about me,” she said, adding: “I’m a big, big star in the United States”.

Minaj also took aim at other high-profile figures. Amid an escalating social media storm over her jabs claims, she branded the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg a “dumbo” and described Piers Morgan as a “stupid piece of shit”.

As the row rumbled on, some commentators welcomed the break from more serious Covid news. Writing for Forbes, Dani Di Placido said that “the swirling tsunami of vaccine misinformation might be a cause for concern, but even a public health crisis, it seems, can have a funny side”. 

That said, added The Mirror’s Whitehall correspondent Mikey Smith, do “spare a thought for the hundreds of middle-aged MPs who now have to develop an opinion” on Minaj, “an artist who officially retired like five years ago, yet is still too young for them to have heard of her”. 

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