The pair asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for details about the creation of a deputy undersecretary position and why Congress was not informed.
Two House Science, Space and Technology Committee lawmakers want Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to justify the creation of a new, high-ranking role inside the National Institute of Standards and Technology—and fill them in about the person quietly tapped to fill it.
In a letter to Ross, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Haley Stevens, D-Mich., question why Jason Richwine—who has publicly made a range of controversial claims regarding race and immigration—was “immediately appointed” as deputy undersecretary of Commerce for standards and technology, a new position instituted that they were not alerted about in advance.
SST “is the committee of legislative and oversight jurisdiction over NIST in the House or Representatives,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, we have yet to receive any explanation from the [Commerce Department] on the responsibilities of and justification for this new deputy undersecretary role, nor any justification for Dr. Richwine’s appointment to the position.”
Science magazine reported last week that Richwine had been appointed.
Johnson and Stevens argue that Richwine “espouses white supremacist views” and his professional background is “plainly inadequate for carrying out the responsibilities of senior leadership at NIST.”
“He has no apparent applied experience in the physical sciences, engineering, government, or public administration and has never authored or contributed to a peer-reviewed publication,” they wrote.
Richwine earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in 2009, and in his doctoral dissertation argued that “the average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population,” “no one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites,” and more. The lawmakers also pointed to blog posts Richwine wrote exclusively for what they call “a prominent white supremacist website,” where he argued that Hispanic Americans could be more prone to criminality down the line—as well as other, public statements he’s previously made about the intellectual inferiority of non-white Americans and immigrants.
“These beliefs and actions are plainly disqualifying from federal service. There is no place for prejudice, racism, and xenophobia in the federal research enterprise,” they wrote. “That Dr. Richwine holds these beliefs and has deliberately built a public profile around them is abhorrent; that he has apparently been rewarded for them by the Trump Administration is a scandal.”
Johnson and Stevens asked Ross to weigh in on the establishment of the new position and whether he knew about Richwine’s previous work ahead of his appointment. Answers to three questions on the matter are requested to be sent in by Nov. 24. The representatives also asked Ross to submit several documents to the committee that might shed more light on the appointment by Dec. 1.
A spokesperson from NIST referred Nextgov to the Commerce Department for comment. The department did not respond to a request for further information.
NEXT STORY: VA Plans for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution