Ranking Dem Derails Covid-Origins Hearing by Smearing Witness as Racist
Rather than trying to get to the bottom of how the pandemic began, Representative Raul Ruiz (D., N.M.) spent his allotted time during Wednesday morning’s hearing on Covid’s origins berating one of the witnesses over a book he wrote ten years earlier on the human genome, implying that the book was motivated by racism.
Ruiz, the ranking Democrat on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, used his opening statement and much of his first round of questioning to argue that his Republican colleagues had compromised the panel’s efforts to investigate Covid’s origins by calling Nicholas Wade as a witness.
“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.
As the Republican chairman of the committee pointed out when introducing him, Wade has edited the two most prominent science journals in the world, Nature and Science, and led the New York Times’ science coverage for years. In his current role as an independent journalist, Wade established himself as one of the foremost authorities publicly examining the possibility of a lab leak and calling for a thorough and transparent investigation into Covid’s origins.
Wade also authored the 2014 book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, which examines the genetic basis of race and how varying environments shape human development.
Wade’s work on that book should disqualify him from being called as a witness in the hearing, despite his decades-long career and expertise, Ruiz argued.
“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 said, explaining that he sent a letter to his Republican colleagues insisting that they disinvite Wade, “so as not to give legitimacy to a man of such discredited, unscientific and harmful views. These views are dangerous and have no place in a hearing examining the origins of a pandemic that has disproportionately and overwhelmingly communities of color in the United States.”
Wade used the beginning of his opening statement to counter Ruiz’s characterization of his book, accusing him of parroting “untrue” claims about the book popularized by academics seeking to discredit him.
“This was a determinedly non-racist book, it has no scientific errors that I’m 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 said. “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. 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 it says none of the things he says it says,” he concluded.
Asked by Ruiz whether Wade was a valuable witness, Robert Redfield, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was unequivocal in his praise for the veteran science journalist.
“I do think that Nicholas Wade — and I’ve followed his work over thirty years — is an outstanding science reporter and contributed substantially both in natural science and, of course, leading the New York Times.”
Representative Kweisi Mfume joined Ruiz in smearing Wade as a racist, claiming that Wade’s theory about Covid’s origins are “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.
“You’ve got an opinion, which is fine, but it’s steeped in this theory that minorities are so genetically different that they are culpable in some sort of way and I don’t like that at all,” he added.
The Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis was originally created in April 2020 under the leadership of then-speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) to give congressional oversight of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, after Republicans regained control of the House in 2023, it was renamed the Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic and charged with investigating the origins of Covid-19. It is currently chaired by Brad Wenstrup (R., Ohio).