A British author and former science editor of The New York Times was the subject of Democratic ire Wednesday when he testified during a congressional hearing on the origins of COVID-19.
Nicholas Wade, who said he believes the virus originated in a research lab in Wuhan, China, came under fire by Democrats on the House coronavirus subcommittee for a controversial book he authored in 2014 that has been endorsed by white supremacists.
“A Troublesome Inheritance” argues there are three genetically identifiable races and that recent human evolution has led to racial differences in economic and social behavior.
According to book reviews, Wade suggests that genetic differences may help explain why some people live in tribal societies and some in advanced civilizations, why African-Americans are allegedly more violent than whites and why the Chinese may be good at business.
A New York Times review, for instance, noted that while writing about Africans’ economic condition, Wade asked whether “variations in their nature, such as their time preference, work ethic and propensity to violence, have some bearing on the economic decisions they make.”
On Wednesday, subcommittee Democrats attacked Wade in an attempt to delegitimize the hearing, rather than engage him on his assertions about the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“The notion that people of different racial or ethnic groups are more successful or intellectually superior to another because of predisposed genetic makeup is grossly inconsistent with the consensus of scientific and medical scholarship,” said ranking member Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).
“These views are dangerous and have no place in a hearing examining the origin of a pandemic that has disproportionately and overwhelmingly harmed communities of color in the United States,” Ruiz continued.
Wade is a former Times science editor who has also worked on the journals Science and Nature. In May 2021, he wrote a 10,000-word article on Medium titled “The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?”
Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), a former president and CEO of the NAACP, criticized Wade’s book as well as his lack of experience as a researcher or physician.
“I am a bit appalled that this hearing now gets layered over with the issue of race, in a very strong way with the presence of Mr. Wade,” Mfume said.
“You’re not a physician, you are not a physician’s assistant. You’re not a scientist, you have never done a peer-reviewed paper, and yet you’ve got an opinion, which is fine, except that it’s steeped in this conspiracy theory that somehow other minorities are so genetically different that they are culpable in some sort of way. I don’t like that,” Mfume said.
Wade contended the attacks against him were a distraction and said his past work was legitimate.
“This was a determinedly non-racist book. It has no scientific errors that I’m aware of. It has no racist statements. It stresses the theme of unity,” Wade said.
“My book was vigorously attacked by obscurantist academics who want everyone else to believe that there is no biological basis to race, and my book was as welcome to them as pictures of the Earth from space are to flat earthers,” he added.
“I have nothing to be ashamed of in my book.”