Democrats Accuse Expert Witness at COVID Origin Hearing of Racist Views

Considered one of the most outspoken authorities exploring the possibility that COVID-19 originated from a lab leak in China, British author and science journalist Nicholas Wade was called by Republicans to testify at the initial Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing on March 8.

His presence drew the ire of several Democrats—including Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-N.M.), the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat—who accused Wade of having racist views that will hurt “the credibility of this hearing.”

Wade’s 2014 book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History,” examines the genetic makeup of race and contends that recent human evolution has created racial differences in economic and social behavior.

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Epoch Times Photo Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of COVID-19 during their visit to the Hubei Center for animal disease control and prevention in Wuhan, Hubei Province on Feb. 2, 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Ruiz said during the hearing that the book was motivated by racism.

“Today’s hearing marks a concerning step down the path of letting extremism get in the way of an inquiry that should be led by science and facts,” Ruiz said.

“When House Republicans announced this hearing with their slate of hand-picked witnesses, I was alarmed to see someone who wrote a book applauded by white supremacists,” Ruiz added.

Ruiz noted that he sent a letter to Republicans on the subcommittee asking that they disinvite Wade “so as not to give legitimacy to a man of such discredited, unscientific, and harmful views.”

“The notion that people of different racial or ethnic groups are more successful or intellectually superior to another because of predisposed genetic makeup is grossly inconsistent with the consensus of scientific and medical scholarship,” Ruiz said.

Raul Ruiz speaks
Raul Ruiz speaks
In this screengrab, Raul Ruiz speaks during the Latino Inaugural 2021: Inheritance, Resilience and Promise event hosted by the Biden Inaugural Committee on Jan. 19, 2021. (Handout/Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images)

“These views are dangerous and have no place in a hearing examining the origins of a pandemic that has disproportionately and overwhelmingly harmed communities of color in the United States,” Ruiz continued.

“There is still time for this select subcommittee to change course to reject extreme partisan rhetoric, discard conspiratorial accusations and work constructively to save lives,” Ruiz added. “The American people deserve nothing less.”

Originally called the Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis when it was created in April 2020 by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the panel’s initial focus was to provide congressional oversight of the Trump administration’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Republicans regained control of the House in January 2023, it was renamed the Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic and tasked with investigating COVID-19’s origins.

Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) is the subcommittee’s chair.

After Ruiz finished his opening remarks, Wenstrup reminded him that he “was informed of our witnesses seven days ago yet objected this morning.”

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Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) speaks during a news conference following a weekly House Republican caucus conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Jan. 19, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“Now I understand that they had some problems getting their witness because of COVID, but we just received who their witness was today,” Wenstrup added.

A former New York Times science editor, Wade also served as editor of two of the world’s most prominent science journals—Nature and Science. Wenstrup pointed out that those credentials are why he was invited as a witness.

“So we will proceed, and I think that we will proceed and I expect that our witnesses will proceed and stick to the topic at hand today, as opposed to trying to deviate from it,” Wenstrup said.

‘Non-Racist Book’

When he was given the opportunity to speak for the first time, Wade defended his background and called Ruiz’s comments a “distraction.”

“I think I should briefly try to respond to the attempt by ranking member Ruiz to discredit my testimony by saying a number of untrue things about the book I wrote 10 years ago on the biology of race. This was a determinedly non-racist book,” Wade said.

“It has no scientific errors that I am aware of. It has no racist statements, and it stresses the theme of unity that we are all variations on the same human genome,” Wade continued.

“My book was vigorously attacked by obscurantist academics who want everyone else to believe that there is no biological basis to race. And my book was as welcome to them as pictures of the Earth from space are to flat-earthers.

“I have nothing to be ashamed of in my book,” Wade said. “It’s the only place you can now read about what the genome says, about human races. And I hope that Mr. Ruiz if he reads it, will be pleasantly surprised to find that it says none of the things he says it said.”

As an independent journalist, Wade in May 2021 wrote a 10,000-word article on Medium titled “The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?”

In the piece, Wade questioned coronavirus origins and provided details that suggested it could have leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

For three years, the answer to where and how COVID-19 originated has been unknown.

During his opening statement, Wenstrup described the subcommittee’s purpose.

‘Where Did COVID-19 Come From?’

“We are tasked to review all the effects of the pandemic, as well as decisions made during the pandemic, not just the origins of COVID-19.

“However, we are here today at our first hearing to ask the fundamental question that this body … failed to ask three years ago. Where did COVID-19 come from?” Wenstrup said.

“Did it come from a natural spillover transferred from a bat to an intermediate source to a human? In other words, did it come from nature? Or was it the result of a laboratory or research-related accident, in other words, that come from a lab?” he added.

“This question is fundamental to helping us predict and prevent future pandemics, protecting our health and national security, and preparing the United States for the future,” Wenstrup continued.

The subcommittee will conduct “an investigation based on facts, expert opinions, and without intentional or unintentional bias,” Wenstrup explained.

“That is what the select subcommittee is tasked to do. Follow the facts, conduct a fair investigation, and seek to deliver the truth to the American people.”

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Epoch Times Photo
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield speaks during a briefing with members of the president’s Coronavirus Task Force in Washington, DC, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Dr. Robert Redfield served as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Donald Trump.

He was one of three witnesses invited by Republicans, along with Wade, and Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former State Department official.

Dr. Paul Auwaerter, the clinical director of the infectious diseases division at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, testified at the invitation of Democrats.

Ruiz asked Redfield if Wade was a credible witness.

“I do think that Nicholas Wade—and I’ve followed his work over 30 years—is an outstanding science reporter and contributed substantially both in natural science and, of course, leading the New York Times.”

Discussion at the March 8 hearing explored the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s potential role in the pandemic, gain-of-function research funded by the National Institutes of Health, attempts to silence the lab-leak theory by Dr. Anthony Fauci and other officials and obfuscation and obstruction by China.

‘Steeped’ In Racism

During the course of the hearing, though, more Democrats weighed in with their disapproval of Wade.

Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) spent most of his allotted time chastising Wade and claiming that his theory regarding COVID-19’s origins is “steeped” in racism.

“I’m a bit appalled that this hearing now gets layered over with the issue of race in a very strong way with the presence of Mr. Wade. And Mr. Wade I have read your book and I’m appalled by it,” Mfume said, before telling Wade that he hopes “that giving you this platform” does not detract from “the issue that we’re trying to get to.”

“You’re not a physician, you are not a physician’s assistant. You’re not a scientist, you have never done a peer-reviewed paper and yet you’ve got an opinion, which is fine, except that it’s steeped in this conspiracy theory that somehow other minorities are so genetically different that they are culpable in some sort of way. I don’t like that,” Mfume said.

Mfume added that former KKK leader David Duke “says that he really endorses your position on blacks and Jews” and that Wade’s book “has been promoted on the neo-Nazi forum that is linked to almost 100 racially motivated, attempted murders over the last five years.”

“I don’t want to take away from this hearing. I don’t want to take away from what I said earlier, we’ve got to go down both paths, but it just burns me that I would know that I’m doing that on a forum where somebody with these sorts of beliefs is also a part of,” Mfume said.

Wade’s view that COVID-19 could have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was not directly addressed by Ruiz, Mfume, and other Democrats on the panel.

Redfield enthusiastically shared his insight.

Evidence that is currently available supports the theory that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese laboratory, Redfield told the subcommittee.

“From the earliest days of the pandemic, my view was both theories about the origin of COVID-19 needed to be aggressively and thoroughly examined.

“Based on my initial analysis of the data, I came to believe—and I still believe today—that it indicates that COVID-19 more likely was the result of an accidental lab leak than a result of a natural spillover event,” Redfield said in his opening remarks.

“This conclusion is based primarily on the biology of the virus itself, including the rapid high infectivity for human-to-human transmission, which would then predict [the] rapid evolution of new variants—as well as a number of other important factors, which also include the unusual actions in and around Wuhan in the fall of 2019, all of which I am happy to discuss today,” Redfield added.

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