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Anthony Fauci avoids straight answer on lab-leak theory

Fauci was under the political spotlight yesterday. Credit: Getty

June 4, 2024 - 1:05pm

When Anthony Fauci testified before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic yesterday, he displayed the well-honed skills of deflection and misrepresentation that he has sharpened over the course of the pandemic. Most notably, he attempted to define away his responsibility as head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) over research in Wuhan that may have produced the Covid pandemic.

This deception came to the fore in an exchange with Republican representative from the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, Morgan Griffith. Griffith pressed Fauci to explain whether he can definitively rule out that the funding he signed off on for work at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) may have ended up being used for to work on viruses that were unknown to NIH.

This question was critical because Fauci and others implicated in the possible lab origin of Covid-19 have time and again stated that there was no virus in the WIV that could possibly have been engineered into SARS-CoV-2. Like his considerably less shrewd apprentice Peter Daszak a little over a month ago, Fauci has now acknowledged on the record that it is impossible for him to know what viruses the WIV held and, therefore, also impossible to rule out a distant connection between NIH funding and Covid’s likely lab origin.

“What I’m saying is that I cannot account — nor can anyone account — for other things that might be going on in China, which is the reason why I have always said and will say now, I keep an open mind about what the origin is,” Fauci responded to Griffith. “But the thing I know for sure is that the viruses that were funded by the NIH phylogenetically could not be the precursor of SARS-CoV-2.”

This is quintessential Fauci. The whole statement is phrased in a way which makes it so dull as to appear bereft of significance. In fact, he has just made a statement which could very well be interpreted as saying “the Covid virus might have been manufactured in the WIV and may even have drawn on funding I approved, but, if this happened, they must have used a progenitor virus not listed in NIH funding grants and, therefore, this is not my responsibility.”

By zooming out from a question specifically concerning NIH funding signed off on by him and which ended up in the hands of researchers at the WIV into a general question about research in China, Fauci gets to answer in the affirmative while making it appear that he is simply acknowledging his lack of omniscience as to “other things that might be going on in China.”

Suddenly “yes, the WIV may feasibly have used our money and resources to create Covid” becomes “how am I supposed to be able to rule out researchers anywhere in China possibly working with viruses that caused the pandemic?” But no one expected him to know what was going on in Shanghai or Beijing. They expected him to know about the money he authorised for use at a single lab in Wuhan.

Not knowing what was going on at the WIV is a reason for not funding it in the first place, not an argument for palming off responsibility down a long line of plausible deniability that ends with scientists in China who have zero accountability to the American people.

Representative Cloud made this point to Fauci. “There’s no one to hold accountable because these systems of accountability have become systems of plausible deniability,” he said. “And so your name is on every single grant, but yet you absolve yourself of any sort of responsibility”.

All of this raises the crucial question: if the leader of NIH who literally signed his name on funding grants isn’t responsible for overseeing their use, who is? Are the American people just expected to just swallow this and accept that accountability was essentially outsourced to researchers in China?

If Democrats continue to allow Fauci to engage in these semantic tricks and Republicans do not follow this through to its grim conclusion, they will set a precedent that inherently dangerous research abroad funded by US institutions is not their responsibility.


David Robertson recently obtained a PhD in the History of Science Program at Princeton University. He has previously written about Covid-19 for The Washington Post, The BMJ, The Boston Globe, STAT, and The American Journal of Public Health.

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Mike Downing
Mike Downing
13 days ago

Not just Fauci; everybody does the same – Paula Vennells, the bankers in 2008. They all cream off money and yet never can be expected to carry the can.

Never admit wrongdoing – just waffle, spin and deflect. That’s why these enquiries are just a waste of money. Nobody will end up in jail or even be fined for their behaviour.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
12 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

What’s really depressing is that now, there is enough verifiable evidence to create a very clear story around what happened.
AND YET. Nothing is happening. No outrage. No consequences.
I wrote a book, back in 2015, about a fictional virus that was engineered and released to create mass sterilization (story takes place in 2020!).
I got a lot right in that book. But one thing I got wrong was the public outrage. In my story, the mobs were baying in the streets. In real life, no one much seems to care.

Martin M
Martin M
12 days ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I think everyone is just glad the pandemic is over, and things are (mostly) back to normal.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
12 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

I think you’re right. But how depressing!
Don’t they realise that if you fail to learn from your mistakes, you’re doomed to repeat them?

Martin M
Martin M
8 days ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Well, put it this way – I doubt people will be so keen to support lockdowns and masks in any future pandemic.

Kat L
Kat L
6 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Things are not back to normal but it’s not because of Covid

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
8 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Yes. I’ve given up following all this as closely as I once did. At the beginning of the pandemic I was sceptical about the severity and about the measures taken in amelioration. As time went on I was shocked to find my rational opinions demonised and my fellow citizens abandoning their liberties and freedoms in the face of a clealry orchestrated fear campaign led by government, social institutions and the media. As the narrative began to unravel I was excited to think that at last the reckoning had begun and that the scales would fall from people’s eyes and the perpetrators and liars would be exposed and discredited. But this has not happened. Yes some leaders have fallen from grace but for myriad reasons and they still form part of the ruling elite even if at lower levels of authority within it. That the likes of Matt Hancock, Dan Andrews, Dr Fauci to name but a few of my ‘favourites’ still haunt the airwaves and walk freely about their business, unaccountable for the damage wrought is depressing. But as someone says on this thread at least ‘it’s over’, at least for now… For me though the belief that I live in a free country among a free uncowed and independent people with liberty and human rights unassailable within our system and social organisation is gone forever. To think that we were even reduced to snitching on our neighbours for having a barbecue or hosting their families around for tea. Great shame be upon us. Perhaps that’s why these things take thirty or forty years to wash out of the system and be addressed.

Last edited 8 days ago by Martin Smith
Walter Brigham
Walter Brigham
7 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

The enquiries are not a waste of time – but they also cannot be the end of the accountability process. Fire those responsible. Defund the agencies failing the public.

Kat L
Kat L
6 days ago
Reply to  Walter Brigham

It would be easier in a cohesive society but we haven’t been that in many decades now.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
13 days ago

I keep an open mind about what the origin is
Fauci’s mind is so open that he had his minions attack anyone who did not go along with wet market claim. This guy deserves worse than jail. He knows where the virus originated if for no other reason than he was the one approving gain of function research on it.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
11 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Absolutely. Try, convict and jail the lowlife lying motherfucker already.

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
13 days ago

I saw this exchange too and I also saw that no one on the either side of the aisle followed up with the obvious question “Does that mean you gave money to the Wuhan lab and trusted them?”. The hearing was not about the truth it was about scoring political points.
The Republicans were too interested in vilifying Fauci then at getting at the truth and all the Democrats wanted to do was anoint him a saint because they are afraid of the truth.
The fact that we are giving money to labs in China without a mechanism for auditing what they do or caring whether one is even in place is not just Fauci’s fault; it is a problem with the policies of the NIH, and we need to know why and how long these policies have been in place. By personalizing Covid’s origin and the response to the pandemic the Republicans have allowed those in power to obscure the truth.
We need an independent commission to study everything related to the Covid pandemic but a bill to create one went no where in the Senate.
The root of the problem is that for unknown reasons the American people insist on electing morons to lead them.

Last edited 13 days ago by Benjamin Greco
Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
13 days ago
Reply to  Benjamin Greco

Exactly. Surely the next question is
“So you gave American money to Chinese researchers knowing full well there was no way to know what it was being spent on. Do you regard that as responsible and ethical behaviour?”

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
13 days ago

Wasn’t he crying like Vennells as well ?

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
8 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Yes indeed. Public tears have become a mechanism for washing away sin before the media and public. Think Gordon Brown, one of the least likely public criers around, who at least appeared sincere; and of course Matt Hancock, a poor actor who couldn’t even suppress his smirk.

Brian Kneebone
Brian Kneebone
13 days ago

Accountadisability of epidemic proportions has been raging in Western societies for so long that it has now become endemic. The buck never stops.

David Butler
David Butler
12 days ago

Fauci should be imprisoned, for a very long time, for crimes against humanity.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
12 days ago

Fauci – with known personal links to the CIA – decides to use China to develop new viral strains. Given the potential weaponisation of a new ‘discovery’, what could be the motivation for the US to use a Chinese lab? It isn’t the disinterested pursuit of truth, that’s for sure.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
12 days ago

The source of the virus is a red herring. The real issue is how Covid was immediately and comprehensively weaponized by the Left to extend and solidify its control of the culture. When will we have hearings on that? https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-worsened-america-rage-virus-for-which-theres-no-vaccine-lockdown-vaccine-mandates-ron-desantis-stanford-masking-2670cd39?st=vusqfbb7tdd55uh&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

General Store
General Store
13 days ago

Time for Republicans to go to war. They should prosecute them all – Clinton, Biden, Fauci…..and investigations into all Soros DAs. The Dems have changed the rules.

Kat L
Kat L
6 days ago
Reply to  General Store

Republicans as they have been are utterly worthless I would rather have the populists run things.

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
12 days ago

They let Fauci off the hook by phrasing the question too specifically. The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) has the top biosecurity level (BSL-4), but the problem is that WIV sub-contracted to other labs in Wuhan, labs with lower biosecurity levels, to do some of the work under this funding. So when Morgan Griffith asked whether Fauci’s funding for work at WIV may have ended up being used for work on unknown viruses, it was super-easy to avoid the issue.
When Fauci referred to “other things that might be going on in China”, he was being disingenuous. The relevant “things” were the sub-contracted work in low-biosecurity labs in Wuhan.

Last edited 12 days ago by Peter Principle
Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
12 days ago

The Wuhan Institute of Virology does have a BSL-4 lab, but they also have numerous BSL-3, BSL-2 and BSL-1 labs. Work is done at the lowest biosafety level consistent with safety.

According to some people who have worked with Wuhan Institute of Virology researchers, they were too cavalier about biosafety. One person called it the Wild West.

But enforcing biosafety regulations at foreign labs it indirectly funded was not something the NIAID would be expected to do. Tony Fauci was right about that.

0 0
0 0
7 days ago

Looking at the beagles, I see the devil in that man. He is an utter disgrace to humanity proving thereby that a God does not exist.

Kat L
Kat L
6 days ago
Reply to  0 0

The devil doesn’t exist if God doesn’t.

Kat L
Kat L
6 days ago

I would like to see that human cockroach in prison
I remember one of the few things the Obama administration actually got right which was to put a stop to funding. Obviously it was ignored.

Last edited 6 days ago by Kat L
Martin M
Martin M
13 days ago

You might question whether it was wise to get research done in China (although the US outsources lots of things to China), but surely nobody expected Fauci to have spent all his time in the Wuhan lab peering over every researcher’s shoulder.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
12 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Well, given the risks involved, and given the lab didn’t have the A+ bio-security rating, I kind of would have expected him to involve himself in the details. He either didn’t, in which case he should have, or he did, but now – understandably – denies that he did. Of course, this leaves aside the bizarre or malicious possible reasons for using a Wuhan non-A+ lab in the first place. China’s not exactly Germany or the UK, is it? I wonder. Fauci has strong links in the American intelligence services and all kinds of deals get done there…

Martin M
Martin M
12 days ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

Well, it’s like any kind of outsourcing. If something is hard to do in your own country for regulatory reasons, outsourcing it to a country with a less stringent regulatory framework is often an option.

Kat L
Kat L
6 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Even if I agreed with this statement there is a myriad of treachery he’s directly responsible for.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
13 days ago

When Elon Musk tweeted that his pronouns were “Prosecute/Fauci”, I thought, prosecute Tony Fauci for what? I’m no fan of the man, but I can’t see him as a criminal.
Lying to Congress? No, not guilty of that. Destroying government records? No evidence of that either. A crime against humanity for killing 20 million people? Not a chance.
If being a pandering media hog and saying stupid stuff like “I represent science” were crimes, then I’d say yes, put away Tony Fauci and throw away the key. But they are not crimes.
Tony Fauci has long supported gain-of-function research as a pandemic prevention measure. I think he’s wrong on that. He has also pushed the natural spillover theory of the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, and pooh-poohed the lab leak theory. I think he’s wrong on that too.
But those are issues on which reasonable people can disagree. They are things that we should not separate into opposing camps and war about. Instead, we can, and should, debate these issues in good faith.
We need a new Asolimar conference, like the one now Nobel prizewinner David Baltimore helped organize in 1975 when as a young scientist he was concerned about the biohazards of recombinant DNA research. Not hearings to shame and lay blame.
These hearings showed that Tony Fauci did nothing wrong. Peter Daszak isn’t Tony Fauci’s apprentice — Tony Fauci didn’t know him (although he has seen a picture taken with him at a conference, he doesn’t remember the meeting). He had no knowledge of the indirect funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or what it covered. That was detail he never saw.
Most importantly, Tony Fauci’s not responsible for the pandemic. Princeton sociologist Charles Perrow wrote a book in 1984 called Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies. The book points out that unexpected failures are built into our complex and tightly coupled high-tech systems, that accidents are unavoidable and cannot be designed around. Scapegoating people whose bad but reasonable decisions contributed to a disaster doesn’t help, it hurts.
Charles Perrow wrote a follow-up book in 2007 called The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters. Both his books give ideas on how we might prevent disasters like pandemics. We ought to take those lessons to heart.
And we ought to take the lessons of evolutionary psychologist John Tooby to heart too. He warns against entering into polarized “coalitions”, where we take a side and battle with our fellows against those who take the other side. You could call it tribalism. Or on a website called UnHerd, you could call it herdism.
In his 2017 Edge.org essay called “Coalitional Instincts”, John Tooby notes the danger in that: “Coalition-mindedness makes everyone, including scientists, far stupider in coalitional collectivities than as individuals.” We act stupid when we hold hearings like the one with Tony Fauci. Not smart.
What’s better? John Tooby says: “No one is behaving either ethically or scientifically who does not make the best case possible for rival theories with which one disagrees.” In other words, let’s not attack Tony Fauci. Let’s listen.
Or as the fictional Don Vito Corleone said, “Never get angry. Never make a threat. Reason with people.”

Last edited 13 days ago by Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
12 days ago
Reply to  Peter Brown

Do you think Tony Fauci violated state or federal criminal law? If so, which ones?

Peter Brown
Peter Brown
12 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Sure, I will give one. Under federal law (USA), new vaccines and medicines cannot qualify for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) if any existing FDA-approved drug proves effective against the same malady.
https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/emergency-use-authorization-medical-products-and-related-authorities#preeua
Yes – hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin proved effective (look at other countries) against COVID if given in the EARLY stages (conveniently sited studies were always done at the LATE stages of COVID).
Dr. Fauci has invested $6 billion in taxpayer money in the Moderna vaccine alone. His agency is co-owner of the patent.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
12 days ago
Reply to  Peter Brown

.

Last edited 12 days ago by Carlos Danger
Kat L
Kat L
6 days ago
Reply to  Peter Brown

Yes there’s a reason Africa did not suffer the same amount of deaths due to the malarials they take.