WASHINGTON — Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) opened today’s hearing titled “The Proximal Origin of a Cover-Up” by emphasizing the importance of investigating whether senior government officials had an insufficient basis and political motivations for tipping the scales towards their preferred zoonotic COVID-19 origin theory. Chairman Wenstrup lays out three potential motivations for abandoning scientific vigor in favor of political expediency — specifically citing the U.S. government’s relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, American funding of risky gain of function research, and a coordinated effort to protect China from possible diplomatic retaliation. Many of the conclusions reached by the “The Proximal Origin of SARS-COV-2” (Proximal Origin) paper are not based in “science” and suffer from inaccurate assumptions and obvious inconsistences. Chairman Wenstrup argues that the drafting, coordination, and publication of the infamous “Proximal Origin paper was not only antithetical to science, but that it also wrongly downplayed the lab-leak hypothesis. Today’s hearing seeks to examine any conflicts of interest possessed by the co-authors of Proximal Origin and gain further insight into the failures of the NIH during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below are Select Subcommittee Chairman Wenstrup’s remarks as prepared for delivery.
Today the Select Subcommittee is holding a hearing to examine the drafting, publication, and critical reception of the publication entitled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-COV-2.”
Proximal Origin came to two primary conclusions:
First – that COVID-19 is “not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”
And second – that no type of “laboratory-based” scenario is plausible.”
This is not an attack on science.
It is not an attack on peer-review.
And it is not an attack on an individual.
We’re examining whether government officials, regardless of who they are, unfairly and biasedly tipped the scales toward a preferred origin theory;
We are examining any conflicts of interest, biases, or suppression of scientific discourse regarding the origins of COVID-19;
And we are examining the science of Proximal Origin – because while I believe it is not solely a scientific question, the science behind the origins is vital.
In one word – we are examining the scientific methodology applied to the origins question.
In my mind, at this point, I view the processes used to be flawed. If we are to do better in the future, we must make efforts to mend our flaws.
And, overall, we’re examining whether scientific integrity was disregarded in favor of political expediency – maybe to conceal or diminish the government’s relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology or its funding of risky gain of function coronavirus research;
Or maybe to avoid blaming China for any complicity, intended or otherwise, in a pandemic that has killed more than one million Americans and has had a crushing effect on humankind itself.
In the earliest stages of the pandemic, scientists and public health authorities raced to understand the novel coronavirus, called novel for good reason—to understand how it spread, who was at risk, its origins, and most importantly, how to prevent loss of life.
As work advanced gradually on most of these fronts, the origins question stalled.
Did it come from a natural spillover, transferred from a bat to an intermediate source to human?
Or was it the result of a laboratory or research related accident? In other words, did it come from a lab?
Honestly, we may never know with 100 percent certainty the origins of COVID-19. Especially without full, legitimate cooperation and transparency from all involved.
However, we do know some things for certain—that the drafting, coordination, and publication of Proximal Origin and downplaying the lab leak was “antithetical to science.”
That’s what Dr. Redfield, the former CDC Director and renowned virologist, testified to our Select Subcommittee in March. He testified, that “[s]cience never selects a single narrative…We foster . . . debate. And we’re confident that with debate, science will eventually get to the truth.”
That wasn’t the case with Proximal Origin—Dr. Anderson—testifying today—wrote that the authors’ “main work over the past couple of weeks ha[d] been focused on trying to disprove any type of lab theory.”
While it is true that the scientific method consists of raising a hypothesis, and then testing that hypothesis—often through falsifiability—it is not true—nor appropriate—to make definitive conclusions based on a falsification process riddled with assumptions.
Assumptions are not science.
To be clear: The goal of science is to prove and disprove.
Regardless, it would be seemingly misleading to assume that Proximal Origin “proved” or “disproved” anything it sought to test.
Its conclusion is flawed as it relies on unsupported assumptions—including guessing what a hypothetical scientist would do in hypothetical experiments.
The facts are that the authors of Proximal Origin ultimately took a one-sided educated guess.
They guessed that in the previous three years science would discover a furin cleavage site in SARS related viruses and were wrong.
They guessed that maybe the WIV wasn’t working with pangolin viruses and they were wrong, as related by ODNI.
Perhaps most troubling, it appears that the authors’ views on a potential lab leak only changed abruptly after the February 1st Conference call with Drs. Fauci and Collins.
The authors continued their pursuit to “disprove” the lab leak theory and fully support the nature theory—employing faulty assumptions and willfully ignoring circumstantial evidence that tended to support a lab leak hypothesis.
They also tended to act more akin to politicians than scientists:
Dr. Rambaut, Dr. Fouchier, and Dr. Collins all expressed concerns that the lab leak theory, if verified, would have significant international political implications—particularly for China.
Dr. Fouchier also wrote that downplaying a lab leak “would … limit the chance of new biosafety discussion[s] that would unnecessarily obstruct future attempts of virus culturing…”
Why try to avoid biosafety discussions when people are dying?
Science should be clear, even when politics are not.
On April 16, Dr. Collins expressed dismay that Proximal Origin didn’t fully squash the lab leak theory and asked Dr. Fauci if there was anything more they could do to put it down.
I want to pause on “Anything more we can do?”
That would suggest that they already did do something – maybe this was a reference to Proximal Origin, I don’t know for sure.
The next day, on April 17, 2020, Dr. Fauci cited Proximal Origin from the White House podium when asked if COVID-19 leaked from a lab.
They used Proximal Origin to downplay the lab leak theory.
Why? Based on what absolute truth?
The question as to the origins of COVID-19 is fundamental to helping us predict and prevent future pandemics, protect our health and national security, and prepare the United States for the future.
I look forward to a strong, on topic, discussion today.