Washington, D.C. (July 11, 2023)—Today, Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, led Select Subcommittee Democrats in refuting Select Subcommittee Republicans’ claims about the drafting and publication of the “Proximal Origin” paper published by Nature magazine in March 2020, which examined the emergence of the novel coronavirus.
Prior to the hearing, Select Subcommittee Democrats issued a staff report on the “Proximal Origin” paper, which debunked Select Subcommittee Republicans’ allegations that Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins facilitated the paper to suppress the lab leak theory. The report, which culminates a review of more than ten thousand pages of documents and transcribed interview testimony provided in response to Select Subcommittee Republicans’ requests to the “Proximal Origin” researchers, finds that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins had no role in leading, overseeing, or influencing the drafting and publication of the paper.
Select Subcommittee Democrats revealed their findings during the hearing and called for forward-looking policy solutions that enhance our understanding of the novel coronavirus’s origins while leaving our nation better prepared in the event of a future pandemic.
“As we pass the one-quarter mark of the Select Subcommittee’s work this Congress, there is still time to change course. There is still time to pursue an objective analysis of the virus’s origins that is free from political interference—a comprehensive, rigorous, and objective consideration of all potential possibilities of how COVID-19 emerged. And there is still time for us to shift our focus to crafting good policies that will prevent and prepare us for the next pandemic,” said Ranking Member Ruiz in his opening statement.
Today’s hearing included testimony from “Proximal Origin” researchers Dr. Kristian Andersen and Dr. Robert F. Garry, whose testimony confirmed Select Subcommittee Democrats’ findings.
“It has been alleged that our paper was initiated and orchestrated by Dr. Anthony Fauci to disprove, dismiss, and cover-up a lab origin of SARS-CoV-2 as directed at a February 1, 2020 conference call—organized and convened by Dr. Jeremy Farrar. It has also been suggested that a $8.9 million federal ‘WARN-ID’ grant awarded in 2020 to myself and colleagues from five different countries was a quid-pro-quo we received for changing our conclusions about the likely origin of SARS-CoV-2. Let me categorically say that these allegations are absurd and false,” said Dr. Andersen.
Select Subcommittee Democrats demonstrated how Select Subcommittee Republicans’ own investigation has revealed that neither Dr. Fauci nor Dr. Collins led, oversaw, or influenced the drafting and publication of the “Proximal Origin” paper.
- Committee on Oversight and Accountability Ranking Member Jamie Raskin pushed back on Republicans’ assertions that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins organized a February 1, 2020, conference call to initiate the “Proximal Origin” paper and spur a suppression campaign of the lab leak theory: “We’ve heard claims repeatedly that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins set up the February 1, 2020, conference call as part of a plan somehow to suppress the lab leak theory. But the Committee Majority’s own June 2023 subpoena to Dr. Anderson says that it was Dr. Farrar who organized the conference call.”
- In explaining how Select Subcommittee Democrats reached their conclusions, Congresswoman Deborah Ross noted: “The Select Subcommittee has reviewed thousands of pages of documents and communications between you and your coauthors during the period that you drafted the paper. In our review, it became abundantly clear that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins had little to no involvement in this process.”
- In response to questions from Congresswoman Ross, Dr. Andersen confirmed this assessment: “We are talking about an international group of known experts drafting a paper. The whole idea that NIH directors would have a role in that paper is obviously false. So, it is true to say that they played no role in this paper.”
Select Subcommittee Democrats showed how Select Subcommittee Republicans have recklessly politized the origins issue by pushing a predetermined narrative that endangers public health officials and undermines our efforts to better understand the novel coronavirus’s origins.
- Select Subcommittee Ranking Member Ruiz said: “As a result of unproven conspiratorial accusations—without proof—like those suggesting Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins covered up the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, trust in science and our nation’s public health institutions has suffered. The Pew Research Center found that fewer than three in 10 Americans have a great deal of confidence in scientists to act in the public’s interest. So, while the manufacturing of distrust is largely happening along party lines, it will hurt us all and our public health in the long run—whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent, and we are already seeing the consequences. For example, threats against scientists and public health officials have surged in the wake of these accusations which could have long-term impacts on our ability to cultivate a strong workforce to protect our public health to work during the next pandemic.”
- Congresswoman Deborah Ross countered Select Subcommittee Republicans’ allegations regarding Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins’ participation on the February 1, 2020, conference call and underscored the importance of international collaboration: “Scientific rigor, especially in the face of global health emergencies, requires international cooperation among experts in the field—epidemiologists, virologists, doctors, and public health experts like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins must be included in the discussions concerning how we investigate and respond to pandemics.”
Select Subcommittee Democrats called for forward-looking policies to prevent future pandemics, fortify pandemic preparedness, and protect the public’s health.
- In refuting Select Subcommittee Republicans’ theories about Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell highlighted how Select Subcommittee Republicans’ politically motivated investigations have obscured our ability to advance our understanding of the novel coronavirus’s origins: “We have an enormous responsibility as members of this committee to make sure we are ready for the next pandemic… The Select Subcommittee’s purported investigation into the origins of the coronavirus—which, five months in, has largely focused on the publication of this paper—has included a number of baseless allegations against our nation’s scientists and public health experts, including Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins. Instead of being on a mission to destroy two people, I wish we were on a mission to get the facts.”
- Select Subcommittee Ranking Member Raul Ruiz pointed out Select Subcommittee Republicans’ hypocrisy: “While the facts remain unknown, we should let our expert communities continue to do their jobs while we, as lawmakers, focus on policies to help prevent the next pandemic and save future lives. But instead of doing that, we are here—interrogating researchers who wrote a paper three years ago so that my colleagues can push their partisan narrative and disparage our nation’s public health officials and institutions in the process...This isn’t about building trust in public health and science—no, it’s about tearing it down.