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STATEMENT: MAGA House Republicans Elevated Race Scientist Praised by David Duke in COVID-19 Origins Hearing

Mar 8, 2023

PRESS RELEASE         Contact:
For Immediate Release
Date: March 8, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic held a hearing on COVID-19 origins. The GOP’s handpicked witnesses included Nicholas Wade, whose book embracing scientific racism was praised by former KKK Leader David Duke and Robert Redfield who served as Donald Trump’s CDC director and allowed politics to undermine science during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, Congressional Integrity Project Executive Director, Kyle Herrig, issued the following statement: 

“Rather than focus on the vital issue of investigating the real origins of COVID-19, MAGA House Republicans elevated a science writer who wrote a book that has been described as relying on and legitimizing ‘fringe racist theories masquerading as mainstream biology’ and Trump’s failed CDC Director. Wade’s book was embraced by neo-Nazis and white supremacists including former KKK leader David Duke – it is very telling that writing a racist book is not disqualifying for House Republicans. They would rather uplift anti-science, right-wing figures in yet another partisan stunt instead of addressing the real issues facing Americans. And while the hearing was full of bipartisan criticism of China’s handling of COVID-19, let’s not forget that Trump himself repeatedly praised China for ‘transparency’ and leadership.”


Robert Redfield
Former Director of the Center for Disease Control

As CDC Director, Robert Redfield Allowed Politics to Undermine Science. “Redfield’s actions in overruling the CDC scientists who had spent a week investigating and writing the original guidance fit a pattern defining his leadership during the COVID-19 crisis. He has repeatedly allowed politics to undermine scientific best practices — and then publicly denied it. […] But experts both inside the agency and out fear Redfield’s failures already have irreparably scarred American public health institutions, with life and death implications for a winter surge of outbreaks.” [USA Today, 11/11/20]

‘MAGA Whisperer’: Robert Redfield Was Trump’s ‘Point Man’ on COVID-19. “Instead, he’s finding a home on local radio. But on these obscure shows, the conservative Christian scientist has found an unusual niche. He’s becoming the point man for President Donald Trump with a fervent crowd that has been deeply skeptical of the coronavirus outbreak, believing it a hoax, a Chinese weapon or a Deep State plot to tank the economy and destroy the Trump presidency. […] Redfield has become somewhat of the MAGA crowd whisperer, using the mantle of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and his credibility as a religious conservative to bring medical science to the doubting public.” [Politico, 4/9/20]

Robert Redfield Undermined Public Health As CDC Director. “CDC employees with whom Science spoke—who requested anonymity because they fear retaliation—along with other public health leaders, say Birx’s actions, abetted by a chaotic White House command structure and weak leadership from CDC Director Robert Redfield, have contributed to what amounts to an existential crisis for the agency. And her disrespect for CDC has sent morale plummeting, senior officials say. During a May task force meeting, The Washington Post reported, Birx said: ‘There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust.’” [Science Magazine, 10/14/20]

Before Robert Refield Was Even Appointed, Experts Called Him An ‘Abysmal Choice’ To Lead the CDC. “It is very hard to understand what accomplishments prompted the University of Maryland to consider Redfield worth $827,000 for 15 months. But it is not hard to see why President Trump would see Redfield’s hardcore, right-wing credentials as a good fit. Giving this doctor such a prominent job at such ridiculous pay – even a lowered sum – is another example of the Trump administration’s willingness to place politics over sensible public policy.” [CNN, 5/13/18]

While Working at The Institute of Human Virology, Robert Redfield Promoted Abstinence and Isolation to Treat HIV/AIDS. “That was for Redfield’s work at the Institute of Human Virology, a $105 million HIV/AIDS program led by Robert Gallo, a former NIH researcher. Redfield managed the institute’s clinical-care program for people with HIV. Redfield’s early engagement with the AIDS epidemic in the US in the 1980s and 90s was controversial. As an Army major at Walter Reed Medical Institute, he designed policies for controlling the disease within the US military that involved placing infected personnel in quarantine and investigating their pasts to identify and track possible sexual partners. Soldiers were routinely discharged and left to die of AIDS, humiliated and jobless, often abandoned by their families. In the 1980s Redfield worked closely with W. Shepherd Smith, Jr. and his Christian organization, Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy, or ASAP. The group maintained that AIDS was ‘God’s judgment’ against homosexuals, spread in an America weakened by single-parent households and loss of family values. Redfield wrote the introduction to a 1990 book, ‘Christians in the Age of AIDS,’ co-written by Smith, in which he denounced distribution of sterile needles to drug users and condoms to sexually active adults, and described anti-discrimination programs as the efforts of ‘false prophets.’” [CNN, 5/13/18]


Nicholas Wade
Former New York Times & Nature Magazine Editor

In a Book Endorsed by KKK Leader David Duke, Nicholas Wade Embraced Scientific Racism. “Nicholas Wade’s new book, A Troublesome Inheritance, is only the latest in a long line of works arguing that humans can be divided into discrete races, and that between those races, there are differences in behavior, temperament, intelligence, and even political and economic structures. Although the specifics of the arguments change, what remains constant is the idea that white people of European descent are inherently smarter, better, more ‘civilized’ than members of other races, especially black Africans and their descendants. Wade’s work is no exception. […] Wade’s book has been publicly endorsed by former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, championed by noted white supremacists like Jared Taylor, John Derbyshire, and Steve Sailer, and tirelessly promoted on the neo-Nazi forum Stormfront, which the SPLC has shown to be linked to almost 100 racially motivated murders over the past five years. For all of Wade’s supposed concerns about the politicization of science, his book is entirely a phenomenon of the racist, far-right fringe.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/8/23]

  • 139 Evolutionary Biologists and Population Geneticists Denounced Nicholas Wade. “Wade juxtaposes an incomplete and inaccurate account of our research on human genetic differences with speculation that recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in I.Q. test results, political institutions and economic development. We reject Wade’s implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not. We are in full agreement that there is no support from the field of population genetics for Wade’s conjectures.” [New York Times Book Review (Archived), 8/8/14] 
  • ‘Incomplete and Inaccurate’: Leading Scholars ‘Unified’ In Their Disdain for Nicholas Wade. “[L]eading population geneticists have condemned a book arguing that genetic variation between human populations could underlie global economic, political and social differences. A Troublesome Inheritance, by science journalist Nicholas Wade, was published in June by Penguin Press in New York. The 278-page work garnered widespread criticism, much of it from scientists, for suggesting that genetic differences (rather than culture) explain, for instance, why Western governments are more stable than those in African countries. Wade is former staff reporter and editor at the New York Times, Science and Nature. But the letter — signed by a who’s-who of researchers in population genetics and human evolution — and published in the 10 August issue of the New York Times — represents a rare unified statement from scientists in the field and includes many whose work was cited by Wade. ‘It’s just a measure of how unified people are in their disdain for what was done with the field,’ says Michael Eisen, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, who helped to draft the letter.” [Nature Magazine Newsblog, 8/8/14] 
  • LA Times: Hard Evidence ‘Nearly Nonexistent’ In Nicholas Wade’s Book. “Wade’s technique can be gleaned from his treatment of Jewish accomplishments: ‘Jews have excelled not only in science but also in music (Mendelssohn, Mahler, Schoenberg), in painting (Pissarro, Modigliani, Rothko)….Jewish authors have won the Nobel Prize in Literature for writing in English, French, German, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Yiddish, and Hebrew. Such achievement requires an explanation, and the best and simplest is that Jews have adapted genetically to a way of life that requires higher than usual cognitive capacity.’ (Emphasis added.) Orr writes, ‘Hard evidence for Wade’s thesis is nearly nonexistent.’ Commenters have argued that Wade’s approach is fundamentally racist, in that he purports to identify characteristics that ostensibly account for the success of certain races or ethnic groups, and finds their source in those groups’ genes. The characteristics he identifies tend to be those of whites in general, and European whites more specifically. In an exhaustive piece in the Boston Review, sociologist Philip Cohen places this ‘in the grand tradition of scientific racism.’” [Los Angeles Times, 8/12/14]

Scholars Denounced Nicholas Wade For Calling Lab Leak Hypothesis a ‘Smoking Gun’ Without Hard Evidence. “Here’s the problem: Baltimore regrets using the phrase ‘smoking gun’ to describe his conclusion, and doesn’t agree that it validates the lab-leak theory. Baltimore told me by email that he made the statement to Wade, also by email, and granted him permission to use it in print. But he added that he ‘should have softened the phrase ‘smoking gun’ because I don’t believe that it proves the origin of the furin cleavage site but it does sound that way. I believe that the question of whether the sequence was put in naturally or by molecular manipulation is very hard to determine but I wouldn’t rule out either origin.’ Baltimore has made similar statements to others who have asked him about the quote, including Vincent Racaniello of Columbia University, a former lab colleague of Baltimore’s, and Amy Maxmen of Nature. Baltimore told Maxmen that while evolution could have produced the virus, ‘there are other possibilities and they need careful consideration, which is all I meant to be saying.’ Per Racaniello, Baltimore ‘said he should not have used the phrase ‘smoking gun.’ What he meant to say was that it was a striking suggestion of a possible origin of the virus.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/8/21]

  • Top Scholars Called Out Nicholas Wade’s Lab Leak Explanation For Having No New Evidence. “Basically, Wade’s argument seems to be that because a furin cleavage site of this sort hasn’t been seen in SARS-related beta coronaviruses before it must have been engineered. The problem is that such furin cleavage sites are common in a wide variety of viruses, including coronaviruses, and that scientists already had identified plausible mechanisms by which it could have ended up where it did in SARS-CoV2 last year.” [Science-Based Medicine, 5/31/21]