Outgoing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday refused to answer questions from House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) about social media censorship of medical information on COVID-19 policies and vaccine efficacy.
“Here’s what I can tell you,” Walensky said, “the most important thing that has gotten us out of this pandemic is, I think, our vaccine and how well they work and how safe they are, and it was really important that the American people understood [that].”
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Walensky was called before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic under the threat of possible subpoena if she did not testify willingly. Chairman of the subcommittee Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) said that his committee invited Walensky to testify 10 weeks ago, to which Biden administration officials protested that it was “insufficient time” to prepare Walensky’s testimony.
“[I]t appears that maybe the Biden administration did not want you to speak regarding these topics,” Wenstrup said.
When Comer asked Walensky directly about the communications between the CDC and Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta or Jack Dorsey’s Twitter concerning censoring information, Walensky repeatedly refused to speak on matters “currently under court litigation.”
“The most important thing we were working towards at CDC [was] to get facts out to people so they understood in plain language what was important,” said Walensky.
Later in her testimony, Walensky stressed that before the COVID-19 pandemic, “most people hadn’t heard of the CDC,” noting that the organization “was never really intended for the average [American]” but rather clinicians and medical scientists.
When asked by Comer regarding censorship of the lab leak theory in particular, Walensky repeatedly addressed that the top priority of her agency was to promote the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
“It turns out,” responded Comer, “that some of the perspectives that the government censored, like the lab leak theory and some questions about the vaccine were correct all along.” He said that it was probable that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a lab in Wuhan, China.
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Wenstrup said in his opening remarks that the objectives of the committee are to fully investigate the pandemic response in order to be prepared for future public emergencies.
“I suppose that some would rather the American people simply move on. But without review of process and decision-making, it’s difficult to plan for the future. It is the duty of this select subcommittee to ensure that we address failings, so we are not doomed to repeat them,” said Wenstrup.