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FACT SHEET: The House GOP’s COVID Roundtable Is An Unhinged Partisan Stunt Highlighting Disproven and Debunked Conspiracy Theories

Feb 27, 2023

This week, the MAGA Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is launching yet another baseless hearing uplifting right-wing lies and conspiracy theories about basic public health measures like vaccines, contract tracing, and even quarantining. After inviting three witnesses who have derailed their careers as respected scientists and experts by spreading debunked claims, it’s clear that House Republicans would rather uplift anti-science, right-wing figures as yet another partisan stunt instead of addressing the real issues facing Americans.

Subcommittee Republicans Are Only Interested In Investigating Conspiracy Theories. Instead of investigating the real scientific questions about the pandemic, MAGA Republicans in the House are only interested in partisan stunts:

  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) holds some of the most extreme views of anyone in Congress on the COVID-19 pandemic, and has relentlessly pursued an agenda based on misinformation about public health. She accrued more than $90,000 in fines for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor, writing on Telegram: “I’m not vaccinated either and support medical freedom for all Americans.” Further, Greene has demanded investigations to validate those conspiracies: “Covid is over. But it never should have happened. I look forward to investigating and holding accountable every single person that created this awful man made [sic] virus and killed millions of innocent people.” Greene declared that “people should go to jail” over the pandemic response and is pushing for a full investigation into her outlandish claims.

  • Former White House physician Ronny Jackson (R-TX) is a COVID-19 conspiracy theorist who has suggested that the omicron variant was a “hoax” by Democrats. Like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Jackson is committed to chasing baseless conspiracy theories and “exposing lies” by investigating vaccines and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
  • Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) is an anti-vaxxer who opposed vaccine passports in 2021 and contacted the Centers for Disease Control to investigate her personal vaccine death count conspiracy theories.

  • Former physician Rich McCormick (R-GA) voiced vaccine skepticism during his 2022 campaign, declaring: “If a 12-year-old or 15-year-old doesn’t want to get the vaccination, and their parents don’t want them to get the vaccination—who really cares?”

  • Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX) is an anti-vaxxer who dismissed COVID-19 vaccines as “experimental,” and has fought to remove legal protections for vaccine manufacturers. He joined more than two dozen Republicans in opposing vaccine mandates.

The MAGA Subcommittee Invited Witnesses Who Gave Up Legitimate Careers to Chase Disproven Conspiracy Theories. Instead of selecting nonpartisan experts on infectious disease, the MAGA subcommittee chose three unhinged witnesses who have promoted disproven or radical ideas about the pandemic. 

  • Dr. Jay Bhattacharya is a professor at Stanford University who has been denounced by his own colleagues as being “a vocal, irresponsible proponent of ‘let it rip’ pandemic policies.” In October 2020, Bhattacharya co-authored a widely-debunked manifesto alongside Martin Kulldorff entitled “the Great Barrington Declaration,” which promoted pseudoscientific ideas about the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration, which advocated for lifting COVID-19 restrictions and achieving herd immunity through mass infection, was quickly denounced as unethical and infeasible by the World Health Organization. He is now a staple of right-wing media, frequently publishing op-eds denouncing the pandemic response. Most recently, Bhattacharya published a piece in the New York Post calling for a “COVID truth commission”—echoing the MAGA playbook on COVID-19 conspiracies.

  • Dr. Martin Kulldorff was a professor at Harvard Medical School until 2021, when he left to become a senior director for a right-wing think tank following a research agenda based on disinformation and scientific skepticism. He was placed on leave at Harvard shortly after co-authoring the widely-debunked “Great Barrington Declaration,” promoting radical and pseudoscientific ideas about COVID-19. Kulldorff continues to oppose basic disease response measures that have formed key parts of public health for decades, including vaccinations for public school enrollees and even contact tracing. Days before the roundtable, he joined Bhattacharya in a Marjorie Taylor Greene-style New York Post op-ed calling for a “COVID truth commission.”

  • Dr. Marty Makary is a surgeon and professor at Johns Hopkins University who has been accused of spreading misinformation and being an alarmist. Although he was initially a vocal advocate for universal mask mandates and a national lockdown at the start of the pandemic, Makary quickly pivoted to opposing vaccine mandates, mask mandates, COVID-19 restrictions at colleges and universities, and even boosters. He now appears regularly on Fox News and has made a name for himself by publishing op-eds running contrary to the scientific and medical consensus.