Barone: Health and education elites forced to confess error
Confessions of error are rare enough in woke America that they should be strictly construed against the speaker. Two such confessions (the legal term is “admissions against interest”) suddenly appeared last week.
The first confession came in an Oct. 20 letter from Principal Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health Lawrence Tabak. He admitted that a “limited experiment” conducted under an NIH grant but not reported on time was “testing if spike proteins from naturally occurring bat coronaviruses circulating in China were capable of binding to the human ACE2 receptor in a mouse model.”
This appears to have been, as Rutgers biologist Richard Ebright argued, “gain-of-function research,” creating viruses more contagious to humans. If so, it directly contradicts assertions by NIH’s Anthony Fauci and Director Francis Collins that that NIH was not funding such research. Strictly construed, the confession means that Fauci and Collins lied or attempted to mislead the American people.
It also means that something here is rotten, and not in the state of Denmark. Peter Daszak, the head of the NIH grantee in question, EcoHealth Alliance, was also the man who last year organized a letter to the British medical journal The Lancet dismissing as ridiculous the theory that the COVID virus was disseminated from a leak in the lab in Wuhan.
That led to Facebook’s suppression for months of the lab leak hypothesis, which now seems the most likely explanation for the virus’s spread.
If you want an example of how scientific, governmental and tech elites conspired to suppress embarrassing information, embarrassing to themselves and to China, there you have it.
The second apology came on Oct. 22 from the National School Boards Association for its Sept. 29 letter to President Joe Biden charging that parents protesting school board decisions should be investigated as possible “domestic terrorists.”
It turns out that the NSBA had discussed the earlier letter with White House staffers before sending it. Three business days after its release, Attorney General Merrick Garland called on the FBI and U.S. attorneys to investigate violence at school board meetings.
The September letter was inspired by protests at school board meetings in Loudoun County, Virginia, some 40 miles west of Washington. One parent who charged that his daughter was assaulted was violently hauled out of the meeting, at which Superintendent Scott Ziegler assured the audience, “To my knowledge, we don’t have any record of assaults occurring in our restrooms.” He added, “the predator transgender student or person simply does not exist.”
Ziegler lied. As radio station WTOP reported, Ziegler had emailed school board members on May 28 that a female student, the protesting parent’s daughter, had been sexually assaulted in a girl’s bathroom by a male student wearing a dress.
This student was charged with a similar offense in the school to which he was transferred Oct. 6 and was found guilty by a juvenile court judge on Oct. 25. On Oct. 15, Ziegler apologized for his June 22 statement and his board’s failure for years to report the assaults as required by state law.
Ziegler and his board seemed guided by the notion that they have superior expertise and enlightenment than angry parents. On June 22, he cited a 2016 Time article and a 2019 Journal of Pediatrics report as evidence that “the predator transgender student or person simply does not exist.”
The notion of superior expertise was inherent in the Sept. 29 televised debate in which Democrat Terry McAuliffe, seeking a second nonconsecutive term as governor, said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” It was also inherent, as his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin pointed out, in his 2014 veto of a bill that would have informed parents of sexually explicit material in school libraries.
McAuliffe, with his characteristic slapdash regard or truth, said Youngkin favored banning books and said a Youngkin ad was a “racist dog whistle.” Biden, in an event in Arlington, just 3.7 miles from the White House, chimed in to the same effect.
Youngkin’s position that “parents should be in charge of their kids’ education” seems more popular, however. Despite the state’s Democratic tilt, four polls have shown the race tied, and one survey showed parents of school-age children favored Youngkin 56% to 39%.
Confession is supposedly good for the soul. But the NIH and NSBA confessions are also good for illuminating how and why ordinary people are increasingly skeptical of the motives and probity of the elites who feel entitled to rule over them.
Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.