During Wednesday’s hearing on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Democratic ranking member on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic accused one of the expert witnesses of harboring racist views that would discredit the committee’s work.
In his opening remarks, Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., objected to the presence of Nicholas Wade as a witness invited by the majority. Ruiz said that Wade, a science reporter who wrote a seminal article examining whether COVID-19 had leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, had written a book in 2014 that was “applauded by White supremacists.”
“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. He announced that he had sent a letter to the Republican majority requesting that Wade be removed as a witness for his purported “discredited, unscientific and harmful views.”
Wade’s controversial book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History,” argued that human races are a biological reality and that recent human evolution has led to racial differences in economic and social behavior. More than 130 population geneticists denounced the book at the time, including some of whom Wade had cited who said he had misrepresented their work.
“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.
“These views are dangerous and have no place in a hearing examining the origin of a pandemic that has disproportionately and overwhelmingly harmed communities of color in the United States,” he continued, stating that by giving Wade a platform, Republicans were damaging the credibility of the hearing.
At the conclusion of Ruiz’s opening statement, subcommittee Chairman Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, reminded the ranking member that Republicans announced their slate of witnesses last week and remarked that Ruiz had waited until Wednesday morning to announce his objection.
When Wade got a turn to speak he, briefly defended his work, calling Ruiz’s complaints 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 ten 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. 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,” he continued.
“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 that it says none of the things he says it said.”
Wade is a former New York Times science editor who has also worked on the journals Science and Nature. In May 2021, he wrote a 10,000-word article on Medium titled, “The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?” in which he questioned the origins of the coronavirus, presenting evidence that suggested it could have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Wade’s article sparked intense debate within the scientific community because it challenged the more prevalent scientific view that the virus has natural origins.
Though initially derided as a conspiracy theory, the lab-leak hypothesis of the origins of COVID-19 has steadily gained credibility as the natural origins hypothesis has failed to be conclusively proven. FBI Director Christopher Wray told Fox News that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by a lab-leak in Wuhan following a similar analysis from the Department of Energy.