Incoming Oversight Committee chair Rep. James Comer (R-KY) announced the launch of the committee’s investigation into the origins of the Chinese coronavirus Tuesday by requesting interviews from Dr. Anthony Fauci and dozens of other virologists and government officials.
Comer and committee member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who will also serve on the Judiciary Committee next year as chairman, launched their investigation by sending nine separate letters to various top officials, including Fauci and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, naming other individuals within those letters as well.
— Oversight Committee Republicans (@GOPoversight) December 14, 2022
They state in the letters that the Oversight Committee’s investigation into “the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s role in obscuring the truth regarding the initial outbreak, and whether any U.S. taxpayer dollars funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s (WIV) dangerous gain-of-function research” will be a “priority” for the committee next year.
In the letter to Becerra, the Republicans request interviews from a dozen individuals in particular, most of whom have never been named publicly before, who they say had a role in approving U.S. taxpayer dollars to go toward gain of function research:
- Dr. David Christian Hassell, Senior Science Advisor, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
- Dr. Ruben Donis, Chief Science Officer, Influenza Division, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority
- Dr. Jeffrey Taubenberger, Senior Investigator, Viral Pathogenesis and Evolution Section, NIH
- Dr. Segaran Pillai, Director, Office of Laboratory Safety, Food and Drug Administration
- Dr. Samuel Edwin, Director, Division of Select Agents and Toxins, Center for Preparedness and Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Dr. Ken Santora, Director, Division of Extramural Activities, National Institute on Aging, NIH
- Dr. Daniel Jernigan, Acting Deputy Director, Public Health Science and Surveillance, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Dr. Carrie Wolinetz, Acting Chief of Staff and Associate Director for Science Policy, NIH
- Mr. Garret Grigsby, Former Director, Office of Global Affairs, HHS
- Ms. Alisa Hudgens, Acting Deputy Director, Office of National Security, HHS
- Ms. Susan Sherman, Senior Attorney, HHS
- Mr. Bill Hall, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Public Health, HHS
Cases of the virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, which, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “seem[ed] connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.”
The exact source of the virus became a point of controversy, however, as revelations surfaced that the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratories, located in close proximity to the seafood market, were conducting research on coronaviruses, including lab-created strains of the viruses that did not already exist in nature.
The CCP’s well-documented initial suppression of information about the virus and its firm grip over access to study the labs’ activities have caused many questions surrounding the origins of the virus to remain unanswered. United States social media platforms’ initial censorship of theories about the origins of the virus that suggested it could have leaked from a Wuhan lab also worked to draw more attention to the theory.
Comer said in a statement about the Oversight Committee’s investigation into the matter that “mounting evidence points to the virus originating from a leak at the Wuhan lab,” though other entities, such as Johns Hopkins University, say evidence quashes the lab theory and that the virus emerged as a “natural spillover” from the seafood market.
“We will continue to follow the facts to determine what, if anything, could have been done differently to guard against the harms Americans have endured during the pandemic,” Comer said. “We will continue this oversight to hold U.S. government officials accountable for any wrongdoing and ensure Americans’ tax dollars aren’t being used on risky research at unsecure labs.”