Ranking Member Ruiz’s Opening Statement at Select Subcommittee Hearing Examining the “Proximal Origin” Paper
Washington, D.C. (July 11, 2023)—Below is Ranking Member Raul Ruiz’s, M.D. opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing examining the drafting and publication of the “Proximal Origin” paper, which was published in Nature magazine in March 2020 and explored the possible origins of the novel coronavirus.
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Ranking Member Raul Ruiz, M.D.
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic
Hearing on “Investigating the Proximal Origin of a Coverup”
July 11, 2023
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to our witnesses for being here today.
Three years ago, when reports emerged of a deadly, highly transmissible novel virus, the race to better understand this threat—and how we could fight it—began.
Scientists, doctors, and public health officials from across the globe sought to answer key questions like how the virus spread, how it would impact our most vulnerable, and what we could do to treat it.
While now, we have those answers, one mystery remains unsolved.
How did this virus even come to be in the first place?
Since the first outbreak of COVID-19, researchers in the scientific community have worked tirelessly to get to the bottom of this very issue.
And our intelligence community has conducted a sweeping assessment of the novel coronavirus’s origins at President Biden’s direction.
So let me just remind everyone here—there currently is no consensus on how this virus came to be.
Whether it came from a lab or from nature is still unknown.
Two federal agencies still assess with low and moderate confidence that the virus originated in a lab and four government agencies still assess with low confidence that the virus came about through natural transmission.
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.
So let’s just be clear.
This isn’t about building trust in public health and science—no, it’s about tearing it down, about manufacturing a problem and distrust to justify an extreme partisan agenda.
It’s about scoring political points by maligning public health officials who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to reduce harm and save lives.
What’s worse is the preconceived conclusions being pushed create confirmation bias, which hurts their communities and inhibits experts from conducting objective, politics-free scientific or intelligence investigations to actually help us understand the virus’s origins in order to prevent and prepare for the next pandemic.
Nearly five months have gone by since the start of this Select Subcommittee.
Since then, we’ve focused on the wrong priorities and wasted time and taxpayer dollars on this hyper partisan investigation, which by the way, has ended up disproving my Republican colleagues’ own theory.
So, let’s go over the facts.
The crux of their theory rests on a February 2020 conference call where they say Drs. Fauci and Collins began a campaign to suppress the lab leak theory.
Their own investigation has thus far revealed the opposite.
In fact, documents and interview testimony provided to the Select Subcommittee at my Republican colleagues’ request confirm that Drs. Fauci and Collins hardly participated on that call.
What’s more, my colleagues claim that Drs. Fauci and Collins orchestrated the “Proximal Origin” paper.
Again, their own investigation has thus far revealed the opposite.
In fact, the records and testimony of those involved in the paper reveal that Drs. Fauci and Collins, “played no role in the drafting of the paper.”
No, the Select Subcommittee’s investigation has confirmed it was actually a scientist by the name of Dr. Jeremy Farrar who convened the conference call my Republican colleagues have hyperbolized, who paved the way for the drafting and publication of the paper—so much so that the authors described him as a “leader” and “father figure” of the paper, and who my Republican colleagues didn’t even bother to invite to this hearing.
Look, I’ve said from the day I was appointed Ranking Member that my top priority for the Select Subcommittee is focusing on forward-looking policies to prevent and prepare for future pandemics.
To take the lessons from the past and make them actionable solutions for the future.
I reiterated this in a letter I sent last month to my friend and colleague, the Chairman.
But if we’re going to continue down this path of political theater, then the very least we can do is stick to facts.
That is why my Democratic colleagues and I released our own report this morning detailing the evidence the Select Subcommittee has received so far that dispels these baseless allegations against Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins.
And that is why we invited Dr. Farrar to appear before this subcommittee.
Because we are committed to following the facts.
And if my Republican colleagues are so interested in having a serious debate about the publication of this paper and the science behind it, then they should want to hear from the one person who led this effort from the beginning.
Let me conclude by saying this: 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.
So once again, I invite my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join us in putting the needs of the American people above political theater.
Let’s reject the extreme rhetoric targeting our nation’s scientists.
Let’s discard the conspiratorial accusations without proof against our nation’s public health officials.
And let’s finally start the work—together—of helping to save future lives.
I yield back.