WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Republican Whip and Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) opening statement at today’s Select Subcommittee’s hearing calls out several of the Democrats’ misinformation campaigns throughout the pandemic, including disputing the origins of the virus and about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in development under Operation Warp Speed. Whip Scalise emphasizes that during the 2020 election, then-Vice President Biden and then-Senator Harris said they would not trust a vaccine developed under the Trump Administration. In addition, Whip Scalise once again calls on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis to hold a hearing about the origins of the COVID-19 and the Biden Administration lobbying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep schools closed on behalf of teachers unions.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“I welcome all the witnesses today and thank them for their willingness to testify.
“First, let me be crystal clear—we all denounce attempts to spread COVID disinformation and we condemn groups and individuals who sell or promote counterfeit PPE, or otherwise profit from unregulated and potentially dangerous treatments that put individual health and safety at risk.
“But there is another type of COVID ‘misinformation’ that is equally dangerous for our public discourse. Many Democrats like to label anything they disagree with, find inconvenient, or off their message as ‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation.’
“COVID has become a major battle in our current culture war. I have been saying for more than a year that the politicization of COVID and vaccine mandates is shameful and must be stopped. The vaccines have proven safe, and effective and saved countless lives. But I am very concerned with the path the Biden Administration has taken to shame, bully, and end the careers of Americans that don’t think exactly like they do.
“Instead of heavy-handed mandates, Americans should be allowed to make choices for themselves.
“Big Tech, with online platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, has arbitrarily and inconsistently censored speech, with little transparency, and no independent oversight or due process in the name of ‘misinformation.’
“For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, social media and other news outlets repeatedly censored and labeled any posts or discussions about the possibility the virus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology Lab as misinformation.
“As it turns out, the ‘lab leak theory’ is an increasingly viable theory for COVID-19’s origination. Big Tech’s censorship helped hinder the United States from getting to the bottom of where this virus came from.
“And I will reiterate, Mr. Chairman, that this Select Subcommittee needs to hold a hearing on the origin of COVID, which has now taken more lives this year than last.
“Social media platforms refer to the World Health Organization (WHO) or other government health authorities like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as the baseline to flag posts as misinformation.
“But the science and our understanding of the virus has constantly evolved over the past two years. We learn new information about COVID all the time so what the CDC says one day could be misinformation the next. Or censored material could be misinformation under today’s definition but not under tomorrow’s. As a result of flip-flopping standards and policies, confusion reigns, and the American people’s confidence in health officials diminishes with these moving standards.
“For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, we were told we didn’t need masks. Then, CDC recommended them for everyone; as vaccinations became available the recommendation was lifted for the vaccinated, but now masks are recommended for everyone again.
“The CDC currently recommends masks for kids in school. But some studies show that mask-wearing inhibits the learning environment and can have harmful effects on young children’s development. Is it misinformation to balance the alleged benefits of the CDC’s current recommendation against the well-documented harms that are being caused as a direct result of the ever-changing COVID mandates?
“And we know that when the WHO and CDC review research results, draw conclusions, and prepare guidelines, they are not immune from mistakes or political influence. Remember when the Biden Administration’s CDC was caught letting a powerful teacher’s union edit the CDC’s guidance on safely reopening schools?
“Mr. Chairman, why haven’t we had a hearing on that undue political interference with science by the Biden Administration?
“But perhaps the deadliest battle in our COVID culture war is the politicization of the vaccine by prominent Democrats. During the Trump Administration, Democrats continually made brazen efforts to undermine public faith in a COVID-19 vaccine and in the FDA. At the time, President Biden and Vice President Harris both publicly stated that they would not trust a vaccine developed under the Trump Administration. Different Democrat Governorssaid they would require their state’s public health department to independently review any FDA-approved vaccine. They politicized the vaccines before they were ever even approved—fostering public distrust from the very beginning just because they hated Trump.
“Now, President Biden’s authoritarian vaccine mandate on private American businesses and their employees is adding fuel to the fire. Bullying Americans into getting vaccinated is never going to reduce the hesitancy that some people have. People should be able to make their own personal medical decisions, without risking their livelihoods or ability to provide for their families.
“This unlawful mandate was recently blocked by federal courts, but the damage is done. Far too many Americans now believe the vaccines have been used as a political weapon yet again. This is an awful and irresponsible public health policy.
“As Members of Congress, we have a duty to defend the right of individual autonomy, public discourse, and difference of opinion online and in society. Allowing the government or social media giants to determine what is true or false and therefore ‘misinformation’ is dangerous and opens the door for manipulation of facts and political propaganda, which we’ve seen all too often in this debate.
“We should be able to discuss the risks and benefits of various policy choices. Scientists and public health experts have repeatedly disagreed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Questioning the evidence and opinions of these same scientists and policymakers is necessary to identify and correct potential errors and enable better policymaking and intellectual diversity. I wish that this subcommittee would serve as a venue for that debate.
“I yield back. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”