Bill Crymes (left), and Bill Connor (right).
Dr. William Crymes, who wrote about COVID-19 for the June Mercury and offered us an exclusive online Q&A, asked to respond to Bill Connor's most recent article for the June 9 Charleston Mercury Newsletter. Below is their debate, which has been edited slightly for space.
As a physician and armchair molecular geneticist, I would like to respond to Mr. Connor’s article “The ‘scientific-technological elite’ is not where we should put our faith” in the recent Mercury newsletter.
Let me first state my full support for the title of Mr. Connor’s article, as faith typically has zero use in either science or technology. I put faith in religion and, to a lesser extent, in government, but science is about fact and experiment. Although science can change depending on technology, it does not depend in any way, shape or form on faith or belief. You can choose to not believe in gravity or quantum mechanics, yet the result is the same if we leap off a building or use a cell phone.
Dr. Fauci received thousands of emails, and yes, some were from scientists. However, there is absolutely no scientific proof that COVID-19 was engineered by humans. The reason we know this is that the COVID-19 genome, published in January 2020, has been compared to all of the known coronaviruses. There is not a single gene in COVID-19 genome that cannot be traced to a previously sequenced viral genome.
COVID-19 could have been discovered and accidentally released from a lab, but it is a complete and total lie to suggest humans had any part in engineering the COVID-19 genome. This fact does not change, whether you choose to believe it or not, because it is a fact.
Regarding the positive effects of hydroxycholoroquine, I must also agree. This drug has significant anti-inflammatory effects, and when people die of COVID-19, it is typically secondary to a massive inflammatory reaction. However, if it’s widely taken without caution, more people will die from fatal heart arrhythmias than will be saved from the virus. This is a simple fact, no faith needed. Steroids have the same anti-inflammatory response, and as an added bonus, they are dirt cheap, don’t kill people and have been used extensively during the pandemic. It is reprehensible the former administration pushed treatments that have well-established, fatal side effects. I trust addressing the injection of disinfectants is not necessary at this time.
There is not a single piece of evidence that does not support the use of masks during the mitigation phase of a respiratory virus pandemic. During the containment phase of a respiratory virus, masks are only useful in the presence of a suspected infected individual — which is why Fauci said in January we did not need to all wear masks. Due to the horrendous failure of containment and vastly premature reopening by the former administration, masks, shutdowns and social distancing were necessary. You can blame the former administration’s politicization of masks for American’s infection rate almost 40 times higher than other countries and our appalling COVID-19 death rate of nearly 50 times higher than some countries.
The importance of faith in God and personal reason during a pandemic is mentionable. I am a religious man, but there is nothing in the Bible that teaches anything about how to fight a respiratory virus. Further, personal reason is in no way prepared to lend a single useful act that would prevent the spread of a pandemic unless you are trained in virology and epidemiology.
We listen to theologians and people of faith who are formally trained to guide us to a moral, ethical and good life. Why debunk those who are likewise formally trained in guiding us on how not to die during a pandemic?
We put faith in the former president to control this virus, and 600,000 American lives are gone. During the 1918 pandemic, the United States of America was responsible for 1.4 percent of deaths worldwide; we are currently responsible for nearly 20 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. These are simple facts and they all say, out loud, “Listen to the scientists.”
I appreciate Dr. Crymes joining the debate. This search for truth is what has become sorely lacking during COVID-19, and a primary thrust of my article. I will re-explain my thesis of Americans putting ultimate faith in God rather than placing ultimate faith in what President Eisenhower warned against: a “scientific technological elite.” Unfortunately, Dr. Crymes misunderstood the point of putting ultimate faith in God as being a disregard of science.
As Eisenhower thoughtfully explained in his presidential farewell address, putting blind faith in a “scientific technical elite” restricts intellectual curiosity necessary to find truth. The following quote sums up his point: “Holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” In essence, don’t make a scientific elite “god” into which we place ultimate faith, but keep healthy skepticism and demand evidence above faith with regard to science.
Similarly, my article was not a call for a disregard of science but to practice the scientific method. Science demands skepticism and the understanding of theory and law. In the context of Dr. Fauci, Americans were generally told to put ultimate faith in Dr. Fauci’s “truth” claim rather than in assessment of conflicting evidence and studies. That’s misplaced faith.
In his criticism, Dr. Crymes made the unsupported assertion that the dangers of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) outweighed the benefits. That goes against the weight of the evidence and science and shows misplaced faith. Shortly after the retraction of the Lancet study that falsely argued the benefits of HCQ were outweighed by the dangers (https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200605/lancet-retracts-hydroxychloroquine-study), Dr. Fauci argued against the use of HCQ. However, Dr. Harvey Risch of Yale’s school of public health rebuked Fauci and called HCQ “the key to defeating COVID-19.” Many studies continued to show the scientific evidentiary basis of the benefit of HCQ. I will let the reader assess just a few of the studies: “By considering more factors and using new methods, we found that when increased doses of co-administered HCQ and AZM were associated with >100% increase in survival” https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.28.21258012v1. In reviewing the results of 306 studies of the results of HCQ in treatment of COVID-19, the following was the conclusion (https://c19hcq.com/): “Early treatment with HCQ was consistently positive.”
Dr. Crymes criticized me regarding the origin of COVID-19 by again disregarding the evidence. On Feb. 1, 2020, Dr. Kristian Anderson emailed Dr. Fauci, claiming in the COVID-19 genome “some of the features look engineered.” Multiple other Fauci emails provided similar notice of the engineered characteristics. The following Berkeley lab study provided overwhelming evidence the virus was almost certainly engineered in a lab: https://nypost.com/2021/06/06/damning-science-shows-covid-19-likely-engineered-in-lab/.
Dr. Crymes also misunderstood our debate to involve Trump and gratuitously threw in an absurd comparison of pandemic casualties during the Spanish flu versus COVID-19 just to hammer Trump: Due to Trump, U.S. casualties were a much higher percentage of the world during COVID-19 compared to the percentage during the Spanish flu. Absurd comparison: The Spanish flu pandemic was at the end of World War I, which involved tens of millions of dead Europeans. Millions more Europeans were starving, wounded and malnourished, and that is why the pandemic hit Europe harder than America due to World War I. Additionally, there was no national U.S. response then, so the presidency wasn’t a factor. Third, COVID-19 is still spiking in various nations, like India, at various times. Due to Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, the vaccines have brought U.S. cases down.
One positive development is that we are going back to debating evidence. Ultimate faith should only be placed in God and not scientific-technological elites.
One question: Why are physicians across the country not prescribing hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients? Does anyone believe we enjoyed watching 600,000 breathless, intubated, prone Americans in ICUs without family or friends around, having their last breaths pumped into their stiff lungs while ignoring a treatment Mr. Connor cites as increasing survival by more than 100 percent?
The fact is that after granting emergency use authorization, the FDA issued a warning against the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in the setting of COVID-19 (https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-cautions-against-use-hydroxychloroquine-or-chloroquine-covid-19-outside-hospital-setting-or) and cited these results (https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2020/OSE%20Review_Hydroxychloroquine-Cholorquine%20-%2019May2020_Redacted.pdf), namely, cardiac toxicity and methemoglobinemia (too little oxygen in the blood) with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.
Although Mr. Connor provides citations for his information, they do not hold up to the standards for the conclusions of peer-reviewed, scientific research. The MedRxiv article he cites regarding HCQ has this statement in bold beneath the title: “This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed. It reports new medical research that has yet to be evaluated and so should not be used to guide clinical practice” (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.28.21258012v1). Further, the website with “the results of 306 studies of the results of HCQ” (https://c19hcq.com/) does not have an affiliation with any university or research agency and its Twitter account (@CovidAnalysis) has been suspended.
As for the mention of Dr. Harvey Risch, HCQ supporter, Dr. Risch has never published a single primary research article on COVID-19, virology, infection, viral epidemiology, antivirals or critical care medicine; additionally, we cannot ignore that Dr. Risch was publicly criticized by his own university for his wildly unfounded statements regarding HCT (https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2020/08/16/ysph-professor-criticized-for-promoting-unproven-drug-to-treat-covid-19/). Unlike Dr. Harvey, millions of physicians can evaluate the current data regarding the use of HCT (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa2012410, https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/full/10.7326/M20-4207, https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2021/04/covid-outpatients-dont-benefit-hydroxychloroquine-lopinavir-ritonavir, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-22446-z).
So either all formally trained physicians have joined an evil cabal, which would have to include the FDA and all respected COVID-19 treatment researchers, with the goal of watching 600,000 fellow Americans die while a magical treatment sits on a shelf, or Mr. Connor is getting his data from sources that are at best questionable or at worse, absolutely false.
Mr. Connor suggests I have disregarded evidence regarding the origin of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) by providing a quote from an email to Dr. Fauci from the highly respected researcher Dr. Kristian Andersen. A truly stinging rebuke in the form of an email … until you read Dr. Andersen’s March 2020 article in Nature Medicinerevising his initial theory and reporting that “although the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus, it is currently impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin described here. However, since we observed all notable SARS-CoV-2 features, including the optimized RBD and polybasic cleavage site, in related coronaviruses in nature, we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible” (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9). I can provide dozens of research articles showing the same conclusion. There is also a great conversation with Dr. Andersen in the New York Times about how scientific evidence changed his initial assertion (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/14/science/covid-lab-leak-fauci-kristian-andersen.html) — something all those interested in scientific method should read.
Evidence can come in many forms, but an inflammatory New York Post article citing a Wall Street Journal op-ed does not meet the criteria. The sole scientific article cited in the op-ed has one sweeping sentence about the implications of their findings: “This possibly illustrates a convergent evolutionary pathway between unrelated CoVs [coronaviruses]” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/339153857_The_spike_glycoprotein_of_the_new_coronavirus_2019-nCoV_contains_a_furin-like_cleavage_site_absent_in_CoV_of_the_same_clade). When you look this up, you see that the referenced pathway is decidedly not human intervention. Further, the retraction of an article is not evidence: The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine retracted those articles because the main hospital data company refused to comply with open source research.
To explain why the 1918 H1N1 pandemic hit Europe harder than America, Mr. Connor blames European postwar starvation and malnutrition, at the same time citing the lack of any U.S. national response. First, allow me to explain why the 1918 H1N1 pandemic, which originated in American military recruits in Kansas (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC340389/#B1), is referred to as the “Spanish flu.” Spain was not in World War I and did not have wartime censorship, so most news of the pandemic came from Spain. It was our censorship that has blighted this history and our knowledge on these matters. Contrary to Mr. Connor’s assertion, there was a massive U.S. response to the 1918 H1N1 pandemic (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862329/). Please don’t miss the included link in this reference to hundreds of related articles (http://www.influenzaarchive.org).
Perhaps starvation and malnutrition were responsible for increased influenza deaths in Europe in 1918. But this does not provide evidence for why the United States is responsible for 18 percent all COVID-19 deaths even though we make up four percent of the worldwide population.
I make no mistake involving the former administration’s failure during this pandemic. The former president was promoting a drug that is very dangerous in ICU patients with electrolyte disorders and multiorgan failure. Out of 222 listed countries/regions, we have the most cases and most deaths. There are 27 countries that have higher tests per million population and — as an extra added bonus — America is in the top 20 countries with the highest deaths per million population.
With regard to other errors in judgement made by the previous administration, there is an outstanding Frontlinedocumentary on these matters entitled The Virus: What Went Wrong?, and I hope all will watch with the goal of learning from past mistakes (https://youtu.be/h4la0YzxFZ4).
Although creation of vaccines under Operation Warp Speed will be seen as one of the most epic scientific accomplishments of our time, the goal to have 300 million doses by January 1, 2021, was as disappointing as the former administration’s plan to distribute the vaccine. Less than six percent of the promised vaccines had been produced, and there was no strategic plan to distribute the vaccine to the states.
Putting blind faith into anything of this world is unwise. But blinding yourself in the search for truth is worse. I have presented scientific evidence that is no longer debated among researchers and physicians.
First, Dr. Crymes is again wrong in his claims of a superior U.S. national response to the Spanish flu. As David Johnson, CEO of 4sight Health, wrote: “President Wilson never made a public statement regarding influenza. He never inquired about influenza’s impact on the civilian population. Instead, his administration concentrated on boosting national morale. They wanted nothing to distract from the war effort.” All other credible historians make that point of the disjointed reaction to the influenza epidemic across America, a pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans (about the same number as have died from COVID-19, but with only a third of our population). The differing numbers between Europe and America are due almost solely to the conditions in Europe after four years of the bloodiest war in history to that point.
With regards to hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), I never claimed HCQ would be responsible for “increasing survival by more than 100 percent” when patients were on respirators. I posted studies supporting HCQ, including a compilation of more than 300 studies showing that HCQ was beneficial in the early stages of treatment. I was careful to let the studies speak for themselves, and let the reader have access to the nature of the studies and what was proven. The numbers prove Dr. Crymes wrong. During the early COVID-19 response, 37 percent of doctors rated HCQ the most effective therapy for combating COVID-19, and 23 percent of medical professionals had prescribed the drug to treat COVID: https://www.sermo.com/press-releases/largest-statistically-significant-study-by-6200-multi-country-physicians-on-covid-19-uncovers-treatment-patterns-and-puts-pandemic-in-context/. Those numbers have risen with the publication of studies showing the benefits. All doctors are certainly not against HCQ. My wife, for example, is a practicing physician (ob-gyn) and many colleagues believes in the worth of HCQ in early stages of COVID-19 treatment. In fairness, I will not allege all doctors are for it, but that group is becoming the majority.
Unfortunately, Dr. Fauci and his acolytes have attempted to stifle disagreement with their “truth.” Yes, there are studies showing certain dangers of HCQ, but those must be compared with the known benefits. Anecdotally, during my deployment to Afghanistan, I spent a year taking HCQ as an antimalarial without ill effect to me or the many servicemembers serving with me also taking HCQ. The dangers of HCQ appear to have been exaggerated more for the political reasons of Trump endorsing it.
Dr. Crymes’ allegations of the origin of COVID-19 are equally misguided. The recent disclosures of scientists at the Wuhan lab with symptoms of COVID-19 in fall of 2019 have given even further credence to the lab leak theory. The famed and seminal medical publication The Lancet has made two retractions/corrections in the past year. I provided the link to the first, correcting its criticism of HCQ. The second is a Lancet apology and repudiation of Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance. Dr. Daszak was a key participant in a statement by The Lancet in February 2020 about the alleged natural origins of COVID-19. The Lancet exposed the conflict of interest Daszak failed to disclose: Daszak sent $600,000 to the Wuhan lab for gain of function research, giving him motivation to protect the Wuhan lab leak theory (https://humanevents.com/2021/06/21/lab-lies-lancet-journal-statement-on-covid-revisited/).
Bottom line is that we should not put our ultimate faith in scientific technical elites like Dr. Fauci, but in God and the reason God gave us.
William B. Crymes, Jr. earned a bachelor’s from Emory University in 1992, a master’s in molecular genetics from University of South Carolina in 1998 and a doctorate in medicine in 2003 from Medical University of South Carolina. After graduating from medical training, he held an associate professorship in radiology at Emory School of Medicine before returning to Charleston, where he has been a practicing neuroradiologist for the last 11 years. He is eternally grateful for his wife of 24 years and two children for putting up with almost daily scientific rantings.
Colonel (USA, ret) William M. Connor V is a 1990 Citadel graduate who retired from the military after over 30 years of service. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Army War College with a master of strategic studies, and earned his juris doctor from the University of South Carolina. Bill is the founder and owner of his law firm, Bill Connor Law Firm, LLC, and earned the top peer review rating as an attorney, “AV Preeminent” after only six years of practice. He was the former senior U.S. military advisor to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and was recent elected by alumni to The Citadel Board of Visitors. Bill also serves as the chairman of South Carolina’s National Security Task Force of the Floodwater Commission. Bill lives in Mt. Pleasant with his wife of 30 years, Dr. Susan Connor, and they have three children and two grandsons.