Biden’s praise of Theranos played ‘key role’ in Elizabeth Holmes defrauding investors: report

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New criticism of President Joe Biden has emerged, stemming from the then-vice president’s support of Theranos in 2015, just months before a Wall Street Journal investigation shed light on the misleading claims from the blood-testing company’s founder, Elizabeth Holmes.

Washington Examiner reporter Jerry Dunleavy accused Joe Biden this week of furthering the efforts of the disgraced company through his past praise of its work and how his compliments have not aged well in light of the findings against Holmes and Theranos.

The Justice Department reporter noted in the article published Monday how Biden played a “key role in legitimizing” Holmes, who was convicted of fraud on Monday, detailing how both the company and then-Vice President Biden “repeatedly posted on Twitter” about his July 23, 2015 visit to its headquarters.

“Talk about being inspired,” Biden had gushed at the time. “This is inspiration. It is amazing to me, Elizabeth, what you’ve been able to do.”

“It is an absolute privilege and a tremendous honor to have Vice President Biden here with us,” Holmes said at the time in her opening remarks. “He is someone I so deeply respect and am so inspired by the context of his service to our country and the bold actions he has taken in service to our country throughout his career.”

And while the company touted that Biden toured its “laboratory and manufacturing facility, seeing Theranos’ finger stick test and innovative test system, and meeting many of the company’s employees,” Dunleavy noted in his report: “Much of what he saw was a sham.”

“You get the sense that the whole medical complex and industry is on the cusp of some fundamental change that goes far beyond what encompasses what you’re doing here,” Biden told Holmes.

According to Biden, then-President Barack Obama was on board as well.

The Obama White House not only posted a video of Holmes days after Biden’s visit, she had been invited to a White House state dinner honoring Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier that year and named a “Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship” in May 2015.

The good intent certainly seemed to be there; Theranos was founded to improve the method of testing blood with a new device that could run a multitude of blood tests within minutes and for far less cost than the current technology at the time. Holmes, who dropped out of the Stanford chemical and electrical engineering program at age 19 to start the company, still found it difficult, however, after 10 years of research and fundraising to describe in detail what the process entailed, saying at one time that “a chemistry is performed so that a chemical reaction occurs and generates a signal from the chemical interaction with the sample, which is translated into a result, which is then reviewed by certified laboratory personnel.”

This lack of clarity became concerning to her supporters and suspicious to some in the media.

After the scathing Wall Street Journal report the FDA conducted an investigation and found, among other things, that Theranos had “uncleared medical device(s),” had kept poor records, and had not conducted audits, among other failures.

In 2018, the SEC charged Theranos, its founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes, and its former President Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani with massive fraud. Holmes was found guilty on Monday on one federal charge of conspiracy to defraud investors and three counts of wire fraud.

And it seems Biden wasn’t the only one who fell for Holmes’ ruse.

“Theranos board members included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry, former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, former Republican Sen. Bill Frist, and former Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis,” Dunleavy reported.

He noted also that Holmes was a “staunch ally of the Clinton family as well, appearing at multiple Clinton Foundation events onstage with former President Bill Clinton and campaigning with Chelsea Clinton at a March 2016 fundraiser.”

The moral of the story for Joe Biden might be to “Look before you leap.”

It would be wise for any government leader to do the due diligence before lending the weight of any office to supporting efforts in private enterprise (see:  Solyndra). It’s easy to get excited about new technologies; certainly the idea behind Theranos, if successfully implemented, would have a life-changing impact on many people.


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