By Nathan Ham
United States Senator and former U.S. House District 5 Representative Richard Burr is on the hot seat after news broke that he sold off $1.7 million in stocks after receiving briefings about the potential impact that the coronavirus was going to have on the United States economy.
The story was first reported by NPR and included audio recordings of Sen. Burr speaking at a luncheon at the Capitol Hill Club. He cautioned people at the luncheon about the dire circumstances of the spread of the virus and how bad things could get. However, he made no such mention of any of these warnings in an op-ed featured on FOX News.
Sen. Burr is the chairman of the Senate Intelligent Committee and was instrumental in the writing of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which details how the federal government would respond to such pandemics.
Sen. Burr released a statement on Twitter Friday morning in response to the recent financial disclosure of his stock selloff.
“I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13. Specifically, I closely followed CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time. Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight, however, I spoke this morning with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency,” Sen. Burr said.
Fellow North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis also took to Twitter this morning. “Given the circumstances, Senator Burr owes North Carolinians an explanation. His self-referral to the (Senate) Ethics Committee for their review is appropriate, there needs to be a professional and bipartisan inquiry into this matter, which the Ethics Committee can provide,” he said.
Sen. Burr was a familiar name around the High Country well before he became a United States Senator. Burr won the United States House of Representative District 5 seat in 1994 and remained in that seat until he ran for the United States Senate in 2004 when current Rep. Virginia Foxx succeeded him. Burr has said that his 2016 re-election was his last as he will not seek a fourth Senate term in 2022.
Four other U.S. Senators sold stocks after the same briefing that Sen. Burr was a part of — Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Ron Johnson (R-WI).