House Dems Lash Out at Journalist Who Raised Alarm Over Lab Leak

Nicholas Wade testifies to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
March 8, 2023

House Democrats tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus spent the majority of a Wednesday hearing attacking the credibility of one witness who seems to have gotten things right from the beginning.

Three Democrats on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic repeatedly berated former New York Times editor Nicholas Wade, one of the first prominent exponents of the now-widely accepted theory that the coronavirus resulted from a leak from a lab in Wuhan, China. Rather than asking him about the lab leak theory, which has been embraced by the FBI and Energy Department, the members grilled Wade over a 2014 book he wrote that they claim promotes racist tropes about genetics.

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D., Calif.), the ranking member of the select subcommittee, asserted that Wade should not take part in a hearing about the "origins of a pandemic that has disproportionately and overwhelmingly harmed communities of color." Reps. Kweisi Mfume (D., Md.) and Jill Tokuda (D., Hawaii) also chastised Wade, who said he is not racist and does not "have anything in common with the views of white supremacists."

The allegations of racism mirror those leveled early in the pandemic against proponents of the lab leak theory. Wade touted the theory in a ground-breaking May 2021 report that laid out evidence pointing to a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The lab leak hypothesis was widely dismissed early in the pandemic, with liberals suggesting that its proponents were promoting racist views of Chinese people.

Wade's book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, draws on information gleaned from human genome mapping to dismiss the notion that race is a social construct. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, political scientist Charles Murray praised the book and noted that opposition to its argument was the result of "political correctness."

Mfume suggested at Wednesday’s hearing that Wade’s theory of a lab leak fueled anti-Asian sentiments. He said that Wade has promoted a "conspiracy theory that somehow other minorities are so genetically different that they are culpable in some sort of way."

Though Democrats focused on Wade, they insisted they are interested in exploring the lab leak theory. Ruiz said that Democrats "take seriously the charge of determining the coronavirus." Tokuda said "we need to understand the origins of COVID-19." In reality, just one Democrat, Rep. Debbie Dingell (Mich.), asked probing questions about the lab leak theory.

Wade asserted during the hearing that "the media was used" by some scientists to discredit the lab leak theory in favor of the "natural origin" hypothesis, which holds that the virus was transmitted to humans from an unidentified animal species.

Former CDC director Robert Redfield testified that an accidental lab leak was the most likely culprit for the pandemic. Redfield, who defended Wade as an "outstanding science reporter," said that the biological characteristics, as well as the Chinese government’s response early in the pandemic, supported the lab leak theory. He said that the Chinese military took over the Wuhan Institute and replaced the lab’s ventilation system, steps that he said were "highly unusual."