House Republicans to Grill Trump's CDC Director Over COVID Origins

  • The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will hold its first hearing Wednesday on the origins of the virus.
  • Dr. Robert Redfield, who led the CDC from 2018 to 2021, is likely to say that he believes COVID-19 originated in a lab, which was formerly dismissed as a conspiracy theory.
  • The theory gained steam after it was revealed that the National Institutes of Health awarded a $3.7 million grant to U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance in 2014, $600,000 of which was sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
  • Redfield will be joined at the hearing by Dr. Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and Nicholas Wade, a former health editor for The New York Times.

A Donald Trump-era Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director is set to appear before the House COVID-19 origins subcommittee this week.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will hold its first hearing Wednesday, investigating the origins of COVID-19. The theory that the virus originated from an accidental lab leak has circulated for years and was first dismissed as a conspiracy. However, a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) revealed with "low confidence" that the theory is possible, reigniting debate on where the virus came from.

Dr. Robert Redfield, who led the CDC from 2018 to 2021, will appear at Wednesday's hearing. House Republicans have been seeking an explanation for the virus' origins, with Redfield likely explaining that he believes the virus originated in a lab, which is what he has said in the past.

Redfield's theory, however, contradicts many scientists and some U.S. government organizations, who believe the virus jumped species and infected humans at a wet market in Wuhan, China.

Coronavirus model, Dr. Robert Redfield
A model of COVID-19, known as coronavirus, is seen. Dr. Robert Redfield (inset), a former CDC director, is expected to testify at the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing on Wednesday. Getty

The lab theory strengthened after documents revealed that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance a $3.7 million grant in 2014, $600,000 of which was sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in order to study bat coronaviruses, Newsweek previously reported. The discovery of the documents led to scrutiny of then- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former chief medical adviser to the president. NIAID is a branch of the NIH.

Fauci has denied the funding was used to develop viruses such as COVID-19, and in 2021, he also denied Redfield's claims that the virus originated in a lab.

According to a New York Post article from September 2020, Fauci speculated that COVID-19 was circulating in Wuhan for several weeks before the outbreak, and that the virus could have adapted to increase its transmissibility.

Some Republican politicians have long pushed back against the virus, arguing the purpose of face masks and also advocating against the COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, the subcommittee, comprised of both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, has faced scrutiny after appointing some GOP lawmakers who have previously made inflammatory remarks about the virus, including Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, and Representative Ronny Jackson, of Texas.

Greene previously compared vaccine mandates to Nazis forcing Jews to wear gold stars during the Holocaust, while Jackson has made claims that masks didn't work against the spread of the virus.

Michael Ferguson, a lead strategist with PoliticalVIP, told Newsweek on Monday that the origins of COVID-19 was a top priority for Republicans when they took control of the House of Representatives in January.

"A lot of Republicans have looked at [the subcommittee] in terms of giving credibility to some of those statements that have been made by several Republicans since beginning of COVID three years ago," Ferguson said. "Republicans feel they are finally having their moment to shed light on some of this. Overall, Republicans are happy to just have this conversation because I think many feel this conversation has not been had or at least not been given the attention it should have received."

Ferguson said the discoveries by the subcommittee could extend past COVID-19, further affecting China's relationship with the U.S. and with other countries. The U.S.-China relationship has continued to sour after the U.S. shot down a surveillance balloon from China and after the DOE's report.

In a 2021 exclusive interview with Fox News, Redfield said he believed the virus was leaked from a lab because it wasn't consistent with how coronaviruses have formerly spread to humans. He also argued that the speed at which the virus spread wasn't consistent with other naturally originating viruses, which spread much slower.

In a recent interview with The Boston Globe, Fauci maintained that researchers don't have data to prove the virus originated from a lab, but that he would "keep an open mind always" about its origins and suggested Americans to do the same.

Other testimonies joining Redfield's on Wednesday will come from Dr. Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow on The Atlantic Council, and Nicholas Wade, a former science and health editor for The New York Times.

Meanwhile, a House committee spokesperson told Newsweek in an email that committee members and witnesses will discuss "how the facts, science, and evidence suggests a lab leak in Wuhan."

"The Select Subcommittee will continue to follow the facts to determine how this virus originated so that it will help us predict, prepare, protect, and prevent the next pandemic," the spokesperson said.

Update 3/6/2023, 4:42 p.m. ET: This article has been updated with a comment from a House committee spokesperson.