Who Is Nicholas Wade? 'Troublesome Inheritance' Author Praised by KKK Head

  • At the March 8 hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, Representative Kweisi Mfume criticized Nicholas Wade, an author and science writer.
  • Mfume accused Wade of having racist beliefs that had been endorsed by David Duke, a former KKK leader and white supremacist.
  • Wade was a former New York Times writer who has testified that there is evidence that COVID-19 originated in a lab and was then leaked into society.

A British author and former New York Times writer was the subject of an altercation with Representative Kweisi Mfume during the March 8 House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing.

Several witnesses appeared before the members on March 8 in the subcommittee's first hearing. The subcommittee aims to identify COVID-19 origins. Dr. Robert Redfield, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director under the Trump administration, was one of the main witnesses and he was joined by Nicholas Wade, an author and science writer who testified that evidence is building that the COVID-19 virus was leaked from a Chinese lab.

Mfume spent time criticizing Wade and his work, accusing the author of having racist beliefs that he shared in his writing. Mfume said he first participated in the subcommittee hoping to get to the heart of the virus' origins, whether from a lab or an animal, but said the hearing was layered over the issue of race because of Wade's presence.

Mfume spoke on Wade's book, A Troublesome Inheritance, which was published in 2014 and explores the "genetic basis of race and its role in the human story," according to a Goodreads description.

who is nicholas wade troublesome inheritance
David Duke, a former Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, is running for governor of Louisiana. Nicholas Wade, a former editor at the New York Times and author of "Troublesome Inheritance" testifies at a COVID origins hearing in Congress. mark peterson/Corbis/Getty/C-Span

Mfume criticized Wade for his beliefs and informed the audience that Wade's book was endorsed by David Duke, a former KKK leader and white supremacist.

"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 has written on his belief that COVID-19 originated in a lab in various articles and on his Medium account. COVID-19 origin beliefs have led to diversified theories, the most common beliefs being that the virus hopped species and then infected humans. Many right-leaning politicians believed that the virus originated in a lab and was then leaked into society, but the belief was deemed a conspiracy theory until it resurfaced when the United States Department of Energy released a report that claimed, with low confidence, it believed the virus originated in the lab.

Wade joined the New York Times in the 1980s as an editorial writer and evolved into the newspaper's science and health editor by 1990, where he served for roughly two decades. Wade's books contain writing about human evolution, and A Troublesome Inheritance was publicly condemned by scientists, geneticists and anthropologists, although it gained an endorsement from Duke, a former KKK Grand Wizard.

"Nicholas Wade has not been on staff at The Times since 2011 and his book has no affiliation with The Times," a spokesperson for The Times told Newsweek in an email.

Wade defended A Troublesome Inheritance as anti-racist in a statement sent to Newsweek.

"My 2014 book about the biology of race is staunchly anti-racist but is often attacked by people who argue race has no biological basis," Wade told Newsweek in an email. "I assume Mr [Mfume] and other members attacked the book because they were unable to find any flaw in my written testimony."

Mfume told Congress that Wade's book was championed by several white supremacists and promoted on a neo-Nazi forum.

"It is repulsive," Mfume said. "I don't want to take away from this hearing, but it just burns me that I would know I am doing that on a forum where somebody with these sort of beliefs is also a part of."

Wade asked to respond to Mfume's comments, which Mfume denied.

Mfume told Newsweek in an email that Wade is not a credible witness at the hearing because of his "racist, sexist and antisemitic views."

"It is absolutely critical to explain the issues with Nicholas Wade's book in the context of this hearing, because his participation this morning has been and will continue to be seen across our nation by the American people as a source of information," Mfume said. "However, Nicholas Wade is a source that holds racist, sexist, and antisemitic views that stain how he answers questions on the origins of COVID-19. There is so much we still do not know about COVID-19, and having a witness that has outwardly expressed his appalling beliefs through his book, a work that is endorsed by former Leader of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke, clearly shows that he will bring bias that would taint the issue we are hoping to investigate in this subcommittee."

Update 03/08/23 4:01 p.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from a spokesperson for The Times.

Update 03/08/23 6:06 p.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from Nicholas Wade and Kweisi Mfume.