During the lengthy hearing Tuesday in front of the Senate Finance Committee for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) nominee, Rep. (Dr.) Tom Price, in addition to the numerous inquiries about stock trades and looking for guarantees for this and guarantees for that, a different line of questioning occurred.
Democratic Senator from New Jersey, Bob Menendez, did a lightning round of questions, apparently testing Price’s belief in science and/or conspiracy. It went as follows:
Menendez: In your medical opinion, does HIV cause AIDS? (There is a group of people , “HIV denialists”, including scientists that deny the causal relationship to include Dr. Peter Duesberg and Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis).
Price: I think that the scientific evidence is clear that HIV and AIDS are clinically directed, correlated.
Menendez: In your medical opinion, have immigrants led to outbreaks of leprosy in the United States? (Apparently referring to a 2005 study from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, an organization Price is a member, which made the false claim that illegal immigrants were responsible for bringing leprosy into the U.S.).
Price: I don’t know what you are referring to, but I suspect there are instances where individuals have an infectious disease and they come to the United States and that…
Menendez: Im not asking about an infectious disease, I’m asking specifically about immigrants in the United States causing leprosy in the United States. In your medical opinion and scientific background?
Price: Again, I don’t know what you are referring to. Are you referring to a specific incident?
Menendez: There are statements made in the public domain that immigrants have led to outbreaks of leprosy in the United States. As the person that’s going to be designated as the director of the DHHS , that not only is the national but the world’s health epicenter, I want to know in your medical opinion, is there such a causation?
Price: Any time you get two individuals together in any relationship whatsoever, whether it’s an immigrant or visitor, and one individual has an infectious disease, then it is possible that individual transmits that infectious disease.
Menendez: Including leprosy?
Price: The flu, a cold, any infectious disease whatsoever.
Menendez: In your medical opinion, do vaccines cause autism? (Self-explanatory. But in light of the President’s thoughts on the subject and his recent meeting with Robert F Kennedy Jr., a valid question.)
Price: I think the science in that instance is that it does not, but there are individuals across our country…
Menendez: I’m not asking about individuals. I’m talking about science. You are going to head a department in which science, not alternate universes of people’s views, is going to be central to a trillion dollar budget and the health of the nation. Can you commit to this committee and the American people that should you be confirmed, you will swiftly and unequivocally debunk false claims to protect the public health?
Price: What I’ll commit to doing is doing the due diligence that the department is known for and must do to make sure factual information is conveyed.
Menendez: Let me say I’m a little taken back about the question on immigrants and leprosy. I think the science is pretty well dictated on that to.