subpoena has been issued to Dr. David Morens to provide copies of emails related to COVID-19 from his personal account as part of the investigation by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. During the pandemic, Dr. Morens worked closely with Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Committee Chairman Brad Wenstrup announced the subpoena following information from a whistleblower about private communications between the two doctors and Dr. Peter Daszak. 

Among the revelations from the whistleblower is that Dr. Morens purposely communicated about federal business using his personal email account to avoid freedom of information requests against his government email account. Emails were previously released by Morens in which the Dr. said, “I always try to communicate over Gmail because my NIH email is FOIA’d constantly” and “I will delete anything I don’t want to see in the New York Times.” Despite this evidence, Morens testified in a transcribed interview in December that he has not deleted any information regarding the origins of COVID-19. 

New emails were released by EcoHealth Alliance in which Dr. Morens provided private information to Dr. Daszak. In one email, Morens said, “Tony [Dr. Fauci] is now fully aware think and is I am told involved in some sort of damage control.” The two doctors then agreed to move the discussion to personal email accounts. In another striking admission, Dr. Daszak tells Dr. Morens, “we have 15,000 samples in freezers in Wuhan.” 

These revelations caused Wenstrup to subpoena Dr. Morens for his private email communications to provide transparency to the public regarding their communications about the origins of the virus. A previous HighWire report covered the testimony by Dr. Fauci, who admitted that the lab leak hypothesis was not a conspiracy theory. Chairman Wenstrup posted a link to the report from July 2023 that showcases the evidence that Dr. Fauci, Francis Collins, and others worked to promote a natural origin of the COVID-19 virus while attempting to disprove the lab-leak hypothesis. The communication between the health officials refers to the lab leak hypothesis as a harmful conspiracy theory. 

The subcommittee continues to investigate decisions that were made during the pandemic—the latest hearing regarding the peer review and publication process for scientific journals. The committee invited the editors-in-chief of the Lancet, Nature, and Science journals to testify before the committee. The invitation was declined by the editors of Lancet and Nature. Only Holden Thorp, the editor-in-chief for Science and the Science Family of Journals, attended the hearing. 

There were a few critical takeaways from the hearing. Dr. Thorp described “preprints” as research that has not been fully approved to be published. He acknowledged that media outlets can pick up preprints and cause the public to think the information is peer-reviewed and accurate. Dr. Holden also explained that “science is a work in progress” and research is conducted by individuals with opinions. As new information emerges, those opinions can change. He acknowledged that scientific journals can do a better job explaining this process so that the public realizes that not all published information in peer-reviewed journals is 100% accurate. 

Chairman Wenstrup started by asking Dr. Thorp why he posted a tweet that said, “One side has scientific evidence. The other has a mediocre episode of Homeland.”

Wenstrup continued, “We’ve heard from scientists, foreign affairs experts, intelligence experts that a lab-leak is possible. The tweet appears to contradict your testimony today. Would you still put the same thing out today?” 

In response to the question, Dr. Thorp clarified that he should be more careful about putting opinions on social media. He said that he has since removed his Twitter (X) account. At the end of his statement, he said, “I apologize for that. That was flippant, and I shouldn’t have done that.” 

In response to Chairman Wenstrup’s question about preprints, Dr. Thorp said preprints allow the scientific community to have quicker access to the information while the journal goes through the long procedural process to approve it for publishing. He said, “However, it creates a lot of complications because the media can cover those preprints. The preprints can get into the public discourse very easily. As those papers are improved during the scientific process and even afterwards, none of that is on the record that is on the preprint.”

Chairman Wenstrup made a statement regarding preprints that were improperly covered by the New York Times. He said, “These two papers were the subject of a front-page spread in the New York TimesOne author quoted saying when you look at all of the evidence together, it’s an extraordinarily clear picture that the pandemic started in the Huanan market. But that’s not what the paper ended up showing, and you pointed that out in your opening statement, and I appreciate that. It seems that these studies, much like proximal origin in Lancet, were used to stifle debate.”

In that opening statement, Dr. Thorp mentioned the papers that were eventually the subject of the New York Times article. Dr. Thorp said, “These papers present geospatial and genetic information that support but do not conclusively prove the theory of natural origin. They were initially posted on the internet as preprints. They were widely read and reported prior to their submission to Science.”

The New York Times piece stated that the studies “have not yet been published in a scientific journal” but also contained the following quote from the study’s co-author, Michael Worobey: “When you look at all of the evidence together, it’s an extraordinarily clear picture that the pandemic started at the Huanan market.”

The article also contained a quote from Dr. Thea Fischer that the “question of whether the virus spilled over from animals ‘has now been settled with a very high degree of evidence, and thus confidence.’”

The New York Times piece presents the study’s conclusions as an unpublished study that “points” to a natural origin for the pandemic. However, the inclusion of quotes from the study’s co-author declaring the evidence is “extraordinarily clear” leads readers to believe they factually know the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak. Dr. Holden, in the hearing’s opening statement, said definitively that these papers do not “conclusively” prove a natural origin. 

Early in the pandemic, The HighWire covered aspects of the virus and pandemic response with scientific evidence. Del Bigtree and Jefferey Jaxen broke down some of the statements that were made by Homeland Security and Rochelle Walenski regarding “disinformation,” that prompted journalists to be labeled as “domestic terrorists.”

An NBC article framed The HighWire host Del Bigtree as the leader of an “anti-vaccination group” that “spread[s] health misinformation and undermine public faith in vaccines.” The article further attempts to frame The Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) as an organization attempting to profit from spreading misinformation. None of the media outlets that have made these claims about Del Bigtree and The HighWire have explained how the scientific data presented to support the statements made on the show are wrong. 

As the hearing continued, many committee members lashed out against the “majority party” and their alleged attempts to cast doubt upon health officials without a “shred of evidence.” Raul Ruiz, who has over $250,000 in campaign donations from health professionals, spent his five minutes of questioning to say Republicans are forwarding a “predetermined partisan narrative targeting Dr. Fauci, Dr. Collins, and our nation’s scientists and public health officials.” 

Other members of the committee echoed this message. In his closing remarks, Chairman Wenstrup clarified that he is fulfilling the committee’s intended purpose. He stated that the committee is an investigative committee, and by fulfilling that purpose, it will also help the country be more prepared for a future pandemic. 

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has frequently called for accountability for Dr. Fauci in regards to gain-of-function research. In an interview with Del Bigtree, Senator Paul went into detail about the dangers associated with gain of function research that Dr. Fauci funded in Wuhan, among other places. He said, “This is an atomic weapon that can get loose. Should we really do this experiment? Should we try to make Ebola spread through the air, just to see if we can? But, that’s the kind of lunacy they’re doing now, and I’m not gonna rest until we get some oversight on that.” 

On Laura Ingram’s Fox News show, Senator Paul said that Dr. Fauci should be in jail. He said he “sent two referrals to the Department of Justice.” He said Fauci lied to Congress. “We know that from his own words. Not because I say he lies. His private emails say he was lying. Virtually everything he said in private contradicted what he was saying in public.” 

 

Steven Middendorp

Steven Middendorp is an investigative journalist, musician, and teacher. He has been a freelance writer and journalist for over 20 years. More recently, he has focused on issues dealing with corruption and negligence in the judicial system. He is a homesteading hobby farmer who encourages people to grow their own food, eat locally, and care for the land that provides sustenance to the community.

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