Dr. Anthony Fauci is offering a defense of Chinese officials who have repeatedly been accused of denying access to scientists working to determine the origins of COVID.
Fauci, who retired from decades of government service late last year, blames Beijing’s critics, not the Chinese Communist Party, for a lack of transparency that he seems certain would show the virus came about via natural transmission, not a lab leak in Wuhan.
“The only way we’ll know is if China opens up and we get American scientists, Canadian scientists, Australian scientists to go there and do the kind of surveillance in the wild,” Fauci told Boston Globe Magazine editor-at-large Neil Swidey.
“The problem is that they’ve attacked the Chinese so badly,” he added. “The Chinese authorities act suspicious, even when they have nothing to hide.”
Ever since the earliest COVID cases were reported in Wuhan in late December 2019, Beijing has frustrated scientists tasked with determining the pandemic’s origins. The World Health Organization (WHO) shelved plans for a critical second phase in its COVID investigation because of difficulties cooperating with China, the journal Nature reported this month.
“We have repeatedly and publicly said that the origin needs investigating and China must provide access and info for this to happen — and if this doesn’t happen, efforts to understand the origins will remain rather stymied,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jašarević told POLITICO.
The Wall Street Journal broke the story over the weekend that new intelligence led the Energy Department to assess with “low confidence” that the pandemic likely began with a lab leak, a shift from its prior stance of being undecided. The assessment offers further validation to some scientists as well as Republicans who have long said China is engaged in a cover-up, claims which Beijing has denied. Other U.S. agencies and a preliminary WHO assessment from 2021 have placed more faith in the natural emergence theory.
A longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci became the face of the federal government’s response to COVID during the Trump and Biden administrations. He even became President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser. Now that he is out of government, Fauci is metaphorically patient zero for Republicans in control of the House who are conducting their own inquiry into the genesis of COVID.
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Rep. James Comer (R-KY), who is now the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said last month that Fauci’s own emails raise questions on whether Fauci concealed information about COVID originating in a lab. Fauci argues his emails show nothing of the sort.
“The lab leak issue was always a possible explanation,” Fauci told Globe Magazine. “Go back and look at my unredacted e-mails. I was the one that said, ‘Let’s look into this. It’s really important.’ And yet there’s this meme out there that I tried to suppress the lab-leak theory, which is ludicrous. Go look at the [expletive] e-mails. Unbelievable! Holy smokes!”
Despite claiming to be open to the lab leak theory, Fauci made the case for natural transmission being the most likely explanation for the virus, touting research by “some very unbiased, molecular evolutionary virologists from five or six different countries” who had their work peer-reviewed and published. By comparison, evidence for a lab leak consists of “2,000 tweets that said it should be,” Fauci quipped.
One area in which Republicans have pledged to investigate Fauci is in regard to federal funding for bat coronavirus research with ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Fauci has vociferously denied the work amounted to gain-of-function research, in which viruses are manipulated to become more dangerous. In the new interview, Fauci said that it is impossible for the research conducted in Wuhan to have created COVID.
“If you look at the viruses that the Wuhan investigators were working with, anybody who even knows a little bit about virology will tell you that it would be molecularly impossible to turn [those viruses] into this virus,” Fauci said. “Even if you deliberately try to do it, you couldn’t do it. That’s a fact.”