National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci secretly told world leaders in the spring of 2020 that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) may have escaped from a lab in China. This is despite his public insistence that the virus came from a bat.
The revelation was made by Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under Donald Trump. Gottlieb said that Fauci last year at least considered that COVID-19 could have come from a lab – before making an about-face and settling on the idea that it occurred naturally.
“I think early on, when they looked at the strain, they had suspicions,” Gottlieb said of U.S. scientists on CBS‘s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, July 6. “And it takes time to do that analysis, and that dispelled some of those suspicions.”
COVID-19 origins need to be examined from a national security lens
Gottlieb said it was a mistake to simply look at the coronavirus from a scientific perspective. It needed to be examined from a national security perspective as well.
“A scientific mindset looks at the virus and the virus’s behavior and draws a conclusion,” he said, clarifying that “A national security assessment looks at that and then looks at the behavior of the Chinese government, the behavior of the lab, other evidence around the lab – including the infections we now know took place – and that changes the overall assessment.”
China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was known for conducting tests on bat coronaviruses. Experts who support the lab-leak theory point to the fact that Wuhan was ground zero for the pandemic is too great a coincidence to ignore.
Fauci is now facing accusations that he mishandled and downplayed the theory that the virus leaked from the WIV.
Emails obtained by BuzzFeed and The Washington Post last week under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) include scientists who wrote to Fauci about the theory last year. Among them is Dr. Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute at La Jolla, California.
“The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered,” Andersen wrote, adding that he and his team found that the genome of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus behind COVID-19 – was “inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”
Fauci faces criticism, but is defended by White House
One of the emails released through the FOIA request came from Peter Daszak, head of the EcoHealth Alliance. He thanked Fauci for “publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin.”
Daszak added that these would “help dispel the myths being spun around the virus’ origins.” (Related: Fauci emails: Fauci colluded with Zuckerberg to fearmonger about the coronavirus before the election)
The EcoHealth Alliance received $600,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which it then funneled to the WIV for the purpose of researching bat coronaviruses. The NIAID, a sub-agency under the NIH, awarded the grant to EcoHealth Alliance.
Talking to CNN, Fauci stated the email from an EcoHealth executive has been misconstrued.
“That email was from a person saying ‘thank you’ for whatever it is he thought I said, and I said that I think the most likely origin is a jumping of species. I still do think it is, at the same time as I’m keeping an open mind that it might be a lab leak.”
Allies of Fauci have come to his defense. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called him an “undeniable asset” during a press briefing on June 3. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden said that he was “very confident in Dr. Fauci.”
Follow Pandemic.news for more on the search for COVID-19’s true origins.