Nicki Minaj's vaccine tweets, Fauci and the White House: The strange tale explained

Nicki Minaj's tweets about COVID-19 vaccines have caused a massive stir. Here's what you need to know.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
4 min read

Minaj has caused quite a storm with her tweets in the last few days.

Rich Fury/Getty Images

Some news stories take so many twists and turns it's easy to get lost in their sheer strangeness. Musician Nicki Minaj sent a tweet on Monday about a truly outlandish vaccine-related claim her cousin in Trinidad made, and now Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trinidad's own health officials, and even the White House have become involved. 

Here's an explanation of what happened.

Nicki Minaj's tweets

So it all started when Minaj, the Trinidad-born award-winning and highly influential musician, tweeted on Monday about the requirement that Met Gala attendees be vaccinated against COVID. Though Minaj didn't say she was refusing to go to the event because of that requirement, many people assumed so from the wording of her post. 

"They want you to get vaccinated for the Met," she said in the tweet. "If I get vaccinated it won't (be) for the Met. It'll be once I feel I've done enough research."

Minaj also tweeted a message that seems to say she contracted COVID-19 recently and so couldn't attend Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards. 

In another tweet, Minaj mentions her young son, born in September 2020, and says he was the reason she didn't attend the Met Gala, not the vaccine requirement.

Nicki Minaj's cousin's friend

But it was a completely different tweet that really sparked a Twitter response.

"My cousin in Trinidad won't get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent," Minaj tweeted. "His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding."

Naturally, that tweet, with its blunt description of the cousin's friend's supposed situation, and a canceled wedding, went viral quickly. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had been liked more than 130,000 times and retweeted and quote-tweeted another 100,000 times. It became the topic of late-night comedy routines and plenty of Twitter memes, mostly at the poor cousin's friend's expense.

Jokes aside, many focused on the medical facts. The COVID-19 vaccine doesn't cause impotence, though the coronavirus itself can. And medical personnel were quick to say so.

Fauci and others speak out

Both Dr. Anthony Fauci and the health minister for Minaj's homeland of Trinidad and Tobago have now weighed in. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told Jake Tapper on CNN that while he didn't blame Minaj for repeating her cousin's story, the vaccine doesn't cause reproductive issues or testicular swelling.

Meanwhile, as you can imagine, the story caused a buzz in Trinidad, supposed home of the swollen would-be groom. 

Trinidad investigates

Trinidad and Tobago Health Minister Dr. Terrence Deyalsingh wearily spoke publicly about how the country investigated Minaj's cousin's claim, and found it to be false.

"Unfortunately, we wasted so much time yesterday running down this false claim," Deyalsingh said in a video shared on Twitter on Wednesday. "As we stand now, there is absolutely no reported such side effect or adverse event of testicular swelling in Trinidad or, I dare say ... anywhere else in the world."

Deyalsingh appeared on Thursday night's Daily Show With Trevor Noah to reiterate his claims. He said that Trinidad has administered more than a million doses of vaccines and only five reported cases of adverse effects were reported -- and none of those involved swollen testicles.

"The advantages of vaccination far far outweigh the minuscule risk," he said.

Is the cousin's friend real?

So is there really a guy in Trinidad whose wedding got called off? Was Minaj's cousin pranking her? There's got to be a reporter in Trinidad calling all kinds of wedding providers to try to track down this canceled marriage, right?

Though the Trinidad health minister didn't exactly say how it was determined there was no such medical case there, he definitely said officials "wasted" a lot of time, and he ended up calling the claim false.

Comedian and talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel joked about Minaj's cousin's friend and also made an offer. "If anyone can track down this friend of Nicki's cousin, I would really like to talk to him. I have questions."

Minaj then retweeted Kimmel's video and wrote, "He's willing to talk for the right price. I'm his manager. Call me, Jimmy."

So if the cousin's friend is real, stay tuned. He and his swollen body parts could be on American TV sometime soon.

Nicki Minaj Twitter ban?

Minaj continued to tweet to her 22.6 million followers, responding and retweeting various opinions and statements about the cousin's friend situation. But she stopped tweeting on Wednesday, and wrote in an Instagram story that she had been put in "Twitter jail."

"I'm in Twitter jail, y'all," she wrote. "They didn't like what I was saying over on that block."

But a representative for Twitter told CNET, "Twitter did not take any enforcement action on the account referenced."

The White House

Minaj sent a tweet on Wednesday that seemed to imply she'd been invited to visit the White House to discuss the situation. "The White House has invited me & I think it's a step in the right direction," she wrote. "Yes, I'm going. I'll be dressed in all pink like Legally Blonde so they know I mean business. I'll ask questions on behalf of the ppl who have been made fun of for simply being human."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about Minaj's tweet on Thursday. According to The New York Times, Psaki told reporters officials had proposed a phone call with the musician about the safety of the vaccine, but she was unsure if it would take place.

CDC protests

On Wednesday, demonstrators gathered outside of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta shouting pro-Minaj and anti-Fauci slogans.