Nicki Minaj's #BallGate: Everything you need to know about the rapper's controversial COVID vaccine comments

Nicki Minaj's Twitter claim about her cousin's friend having swollen testicles and becoming impotent as a result of getting the COVID-19 vaccine has been escalated to the White House.

It all started over the "Trollz" rapper, 38, not attending Monday's Met Gala, and now the governments of multiple nations have weighed in to debunk the tweets she sent out to her 22 million followers. Plus, she's in a back and forth with the White House over whether she was invited there to discuss her vaccine reluctance.

Here's the play-by-play, from the latest news on down to the start of #BallGate.

Sept. 16: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterates that "a call with Nicki Minaj and one of our doctors" was offered "to answer her questions she had about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine."

Sept. 15: In an Instagram Live, Minaj claims people are trying to "assassinate my character." She says people are making her look "crazy" and "stupid" so that "no one else will ever ask questions again. Don't you see what's happening?" she asks.

A White House official says a call — not an in-person visit — was "offered" to Minaj to discuss her questions about "the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine" with "one of our doctors. "

Minaj says she's been invited to the White House to discuss her vaccine comments. She promises to "ask questions on behalf of the [people] who have been made fun of for simply being human," noting it is "day 3" of "#BallGate."

A group protests outside the CDC headquarters in Atlanta chanting, "Nicki Minaj told me the truth."

Twitter — which does have a policy of restricting the access of users who spread misinformation about COVID and the vaccines — denies censuring Minaj.

Minaj says she's in "Twitter jail" — blocked by the social media site from posting due to her vaccine comments.

(Screenshot: Nicki Minaj via Instagram)
(Screenshot: Nicki Minaj via Instagram)

The Health Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Terrence Deyalsingh, shoots down Minaj's claims at a press conference, saying, "One of the reasons we could not respond yesterday in real-time to Miss Minaj is that we had to check and make sure that what she was claiming was either true or false. Unfortunately, we wasted so much time yesterday running down this false claim." He says as far as the government there knows, "there have been no such reported either side effect or adverse event." He adds, "As we stand now, there is absolutely no reported such side effects or adverse event of testicular swelling in Trinidad ... none that we know of anywhere else in the world."

Sept. 14: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, dismisses Minaj's claim while speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper. "The answer to that ... is a resounding no," he said, adding, "She should be thinking twice about propagating information that really has no basis except a one-off anecdote, and that’s not what science is all about."

U.K.'s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, "I am not as familiar with the works of Nicki Minaj as I probably should be." But he said he was familiar with U.K. "superstar" general practitioner Nikki Kanani "who will tell you vaccines are wonderful and everybody should get them."

Dr. Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, says at a press conference, when asked about Minaj, "There are a number of myths that fly around, some of which are just clearly ridiculous and some of which are clearly designed just to scare. That happens to be one of them. That is untrue." He says those spreading misinformation "should be ashamed."

Overnight and into the next day the internet had a field day mocking Minaj over her "research." There is speculation about the what was really wrong with the star's cousin's friend — and many, many memes about swollen testicles are shared. She trends on Twitter.

Sept. 13: Minaj is widely criticized on social media — and called out by MSNBC's Joy Reid, among others. The ReidOut host says, "You have 22 million followers on Twitter. For you to use your platform to encourage our community to not protect themselves and save their lives, my God, sister, you could do better than that.” Minaj, who also posted that she had COVID-19 previously and would likely get vaccinated before going on tour, claps back at Reid.

However, her "research" — passed along to her 22.7 million Twitter followers and later to her 157 million Instagram followers — is apparently third-hand gossip from her "cousin in Trinidad" who "won't get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen," leading to Minaj's cousin's friend's fiancée calling off their wedding. Minaj was born in Trinidad and Tobago. (The CDC, and numerous independent studies, have found that COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing infection and reducing the severity of "breakthrough" cases. Also, scientific studies have found no proof that vaccines harm fertility or sexual function.)

The day of the Met Gala, Minaj is asked why she isn't attending the fashion event she's been to on many occasions. She says it's due to the event's vaccine mandate, explaining, "They want you to get vaccinated for the Met. If I get vaccinated, it won't be for the Met. It'll be once I've done enough research."