Fauci Acknowledges He Privately Entertained Lab-Leak, Genetic-Engineering Theories Early in Pandemic
Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted that during a conference call on Feb.1, 2020, he and a group of scientists discussed the theory that the coronavirus leaked from a laboratory and the possibility that it could have been genetically modified.
"I remember it very well," Fauci told USA Today on Thursday. "When we called, we decided that the situation really needs to be examined carefully."
The existence of the conference call was documented in a pool of Fauci's emails published by Buzzfeed as part of a FOIA request. Kristian Andersen, an operator on the call and an infectious disease genomics specialist at the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told Fauci in an email on Jan. 31 that "some of the features" of the coronavirus "look (possibly) designed".
Andersen wrote that he, University of Sydney virologist Edward Holmes, and other scientists agree that "they all find the genome contrary to evolutionary expectations," although "these opinions may still change."
The conference call "was a very productive back-and-forth conversation, with some attendees believing it could possibly be a compromised virus," Fauci said. "I was always open to the theory of the laboratory leak," although at the time I had the feeling that the most likely origin was an animal host. "
Fauci has publicly supported the theory that the coronavirus jumped from an animal to a human first, dismissing the laboratory leak theory as a less likely alternative.
"If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what is out there now, [the scientific evidence] there is a very, very strong tendency that this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated ... All of the incremental evolution over the years Time strongly suggests [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species, ”he said in an interview with National Geographic in May 2020. He added that proponents of lab leak theory made a“ circular argument “Put forward.
A researcher with ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology thanked Fauci in April 2020 for supporting the natural origin hypothesis.
On February 4, three days after the conference, Andersen said in a separate email that "data conclusively show" that the coronavirus was not developed. This email was for scientists writing a letter about the pathogen to the White House Science and Technology Policy Office.
"The main crazy theories floating around right now relate to the fact that this virus was somehow developed on purpose, and it has been proven not to be," Anderson said in the email. "Engineering can mean a lot and could either be done for basic research or for nefarious reasons, but the data conclusively shows that neither was done ..."
Andersen did not tell USA Today why his position appeared to change within three days.
The public debate over whether the coronavirus leaked from a laboratory rekindled after the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in November 2019, before the 8th. This report was based on a US intelligence review claiming researchers got sick "with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness".
Alina Chan, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and MIT, said some scientists felt they couldn't speak freely about the laboratory leak theory at the start of the pandemic for fear of being associated with former President Trump.
"At the time, being associated with Trump and becoming a tool for racists was even more frightening, so people didn't want to publicly request an investigation into the origins of the lab," Chan told NBC on Thursday.
More from National Review
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Fauci claims it is "in China's interest" to uncover the origin of COVID and urges Americans to avoid "pointing the finger"
Fauci defends US grants to Wuhan Lab and warns against taking emails out of context
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