FOIA Update
May 13, 2022

Transmitted: May 12, 2022

To: University of Massachusetts & Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Full Letter: Letter to the University of Massachusetts (PDF)

Letter to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (PDF)

RE: Request for Public Records Regarding Lawrence C. Madoff’s Participation as a Signatory of a February 19, 2020, Statement Published in The Lancet


The mission of the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) includes conducting “programs of research and public service that advance knowledge and improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.” Whereas, the mission of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) includes the prevention of “illness, injury, and premature death.”

On February 19, 2020, a group of public health experts published a “Statement in Support of the Scientists, Public Health Professionals, and Medical Professionals of China Combatting COVID-19” in The Lancet. Among other things, the statement provides that its signatories “stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” And, thus it is reported to have played a role in suppressing early debate—and, thereby, the advancement of knowledge—regarding COVID-19’s origin. Moreover, the U.S. State Department has noted that a true understanding of the origin of the pandemic is important to the prevention of future pandemics.

It was later revealed that, although the statement claims that the signatories had “no competing interests,” it was orchestrated by the director of an organization that is reported to have funded research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which is the laboratory at the center of questions concerning whether the COVID-19 virus could have escaped a research setting.

Moreover, in contrast to the missions of UMass (“advance knowledge’) and DPH (“prevent illness”), Lawrence C. Madoff, a professor at UMass’ Chan Medical School and the Medical Director of DPH’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, signed the statement published in The Lancet.

To shed light on the UMass’ and DPH’s management of its professional staff, through the lens of Madoff and his collaboration with the director of the organization that orchestrated the statement—which labeled as “conspiracy theories” legitimate questions about the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more specifically whether it could have arisen from an accident at the WIV or another laboratory—Empower Oversight submitted requests for public records to the UMass and DPH. The requested records include communications regarding any statement or essay published by The Lancet that was authored or signed by Madoff, any standards of UMass and DPH that govern the statements and publications of their staffs, as well as all communications from Madoff that are addressed to the director of the organization that orchestrated the statement or that mention WIV.

If you have first-hand information you’d like to disclose to assist Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially here.