CBS News anchor Margaret Brennan pressed the GOP chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic on Sunday about committee members’ past remarks about the COVID-19 vaccine.
The subcommittee, which is set to hold a hearing into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, is comprised of a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats. However, it includes some GOP lawmakers who have faced scrutiny over their past remarks on the pandemic and vaccines.
One member, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, faced criticism after repeatedly comparing vaccine mandates to Nazis forcing Jewish people to wear gold stars during the Holocaust. The congresswoman later apologized for the comparison. Greene also faced accusations of spreading misinformation about the number of deaths attributed to the vaccine.
Another member, Representative Dr. Ronny Jackson, a Texas Republican, previously said that face masks “never” worked and described the Omicron variant as a hoax created by Democrats “to cheat during an election.” House Republicans have previously faced criticism for appointing these two members of Congress to sit on the COVID-19 subcommittee.
Brennan questioned subcommittee chair Brad Wenstrup, of Ohio, over their committee memberships during Face the Nation on Sunday, posing whether their past comments could impede the committee’s work on the pandemic.
“I think a lot of people would welcome just sticking to the facts, which is why I want to ask you about the membership on your committee,” Brennan said. “Because you have Marjorie Taylor Greene on it. She shared misleading information about deaths and COVID vaccines. She compared vaccines to Nazis forcing Jews to wear gold stars. Dr. Ronny Jackson, who said masks never worked, he called the Omicron variant the midterm election variant.”
She then asked: “How do people take your committee work seriously with members like this on it?”
Wenstrup defended the committee, responding that it is made up of “a lot of very serious members on both sides of the aisle that are just after the truth” who come from a “variety of backgrounds.”
“We have to conduct ourselves in a way that is professional, and I hope that we will. I can’t control everybody, and that goes for both sides of the aisle. Dr. Ruiz can’t either,” he said, referring to the committee’s Democratic Vice Chair Representative Raul Ruiz, of California. “But at the same time, what I’m seeing from all of the members is that they have backgrounds of severe interest.”
Wenstrup pointed out that the possibility of the COVID-19 virus stemming from a lab leak was once dismissed as a “conspiracy,” but that federal agencies have now come forward and acknowledged it as a real possibility. The Department of Energy (DOE) last week concluded with “low confidence” it likely came from a lab in Wuhan, China, where the virus was first discovered in late 2019.
When reached by Newsweek on Sunday afternoon, a spokesperson for Wenstrup said the congressman has no further comment on the topic.
Meanwhile, conservatives, like Greene, have said that public health measures like COVID-19 vaccine passports, implemented in Democratic-leaning areas like New York City, were an overreach. Proponents of these policies, however, viewed them as necessary to prevent the transmission of the disease.
Newsweek reached out to Greene and Jackson’s offices for comment.
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