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During COVID origins hearing, congressman calls out witness for book on race

During a House Oversight subcommittee hearing on Wednesday about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rep. Kweisi Mfume called out one of the witnesses, Nicholas Wade, over his book “A Troublesome Inheritance” and the praise it received from white supremacists.

Video transcript

KWEISI MFUME: However, I must go back to what my ranking member said, that 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. And, Mr. Wade, I have read your book, and I'm appalled by it. And I would hope that giving you this platform does not paint or taint the issue that we're trying to get to and deal with here.

You're not a physician. You are not a physician's assistant. You're not a scientist. You've 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 or another, minorities are so genetically different that they are culpable in some sort of way. And I just-- I don't like that at all.

In your book, "The Troublesome Inheritance," you talk about a number of different things. And David Duke talks about it, and says that he really endorses your position on Blacks and Jews. The book was championed by the infamous white supremacist Jared Taylor, John [INAUDIBLE], and Steve Sailer. The book has been promoted on a neo-Nazi forum that is linked to almost 100 racially-motivated attempted murders over the last five years.

And it troubles me that-- and I'm going to ask unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman-- that the "New York Times" piece for which you wrote actually said that your theory has come off at the wheels, particularly when you talk about East Asians and their genetic makeup. I'd like to ask that the David Duke statement and the copy from his website be entered into the record. And I'd like that the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks these things annually, and their assessment, which is similar, be added to the record.

- Without objection.

KWEISI MFUME: Now, I got to tell you, I spent five terms in this body. I was so troubled by what I saw in the streets with bias and hate crimes that I actually gave up my seat in the Congress, and I went back to work in community groups. I ended up being the president of the NAACP, so that nationally I could work against this sort of thing. It is repulsive. And so here I am back again hearing the issues that drove me out of here to begin with.

And I don't want to take away from this hearing. I don't want to take away from what I said earlier, that we've got to go down both paths. But it just burns me that I would know that I'm doing that on a forum where somebody with these sort of beliefs is also a part of.

- I do think that Mr. Wade deserves the opportunity to take two minutes to respond to the accusations made. But I do want to get back to the topic at hand, which is the origins of COVID-19.

NICHOLAS WADE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm sorry for this distraction from the work of the committee. I'm sorry, too, that [INAUDIBLE] did not like my book. I am not a racist. I don't have anything in common with the views of white supremacists. Just because--

KWEISI MFUME: They love you, though.

NICHOLAS WADE: Just because David Duke likes my book--

KWEISI MFUME: All of them love you.

NICHOLAS WADE: I mean, maybe he likes--

- Mr. Mfume, would you please let him respond? He did not interrupt you.

KWEISI MFUME: I didn't know that he got time to respond.

- Chairman's decision.

NICHOLAS WADE: It seems a not very good argument that David Duke likes my book. Maybe he likes many things. That doesn't mean to say they're all wrong. I did not write my book for him. I'd also like to make the clearest possible distinction between writing about the biology of race, which is a purely scientific issue, and racist statements, with which I have absolutely no sympathy. My book is explicitly anti-racist. I stress the fact that we are all variations on the same human genome, which I think is a very important and unifying fact. I-- I think the arguments made against the book were for entirely political reasons.

My [INAUDIBLE] member referred to the 120 scientists who attacked my book in science. Well, there's a nice story about Einstein. Someone told him that 100 scientists had written a book saying he was wrong. And he replied, well, if I were wrong, one would have been enough. That's how science works, not on the number of people against it. It works on facts. And those letter writers had no good point to no mistake in my book. So I don't think their criticism should be taken carefully. I'm sorry for the disruption and unhappiness this issue has caused, and let's get back to the issue of the of the hearing, Mr. Chairman.