“I have never lied before the Congress,” the nation’s top infectious disease doctor said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky sparred over the origins of the coronavirus during a hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
Dr. Fauci, the White House chief medical advisor, clapped back at Sen. Paul’s claims that the National Institutes of Health-funded research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology could have contributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
Paul accused Fauci of misleading Congress during testimony on May 11 when he claimed that the NIH did not fund gain-of-function research, which involves “making viruses more contagious or deadly in a laboratory,” per Yahoo News.
Paul said that in May 11 testimony, Fauci “stated that the NIH has never and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And yet, gain-of-function research was done entirely in the Wuhan institute by Doctor Shi [Zhengli] and was funded by the NIH.”
“Knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress…do you wish to retract your May 11 claim that the NIH never funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan?” Paul asked Fauci.
“Sen. Paul, I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement,” Fauci replied, noting that the research in question “was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain-of-function.”
As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Fauci oversees several NIH research programs, including the grant process. The NIH funded a New York-based nonprofit called the EcoHealth Alliance that worked with the Wuhan laboratory in research into bat coronaviruses. The study, according to Fauci, does not constitute gain-of-function research.
At issue is whether the COVID-19 virus transferred from animals to humans naturally as is widely believed, or whether it originated in the Wuhan lab, per CNN. The Biden administration has renewed efforts to determine an origin for the novel coronavirus pandemic and senior intelligence experts are split on the issue.
“When you take an animal virus, and you increase its transmissibility to humans—you’re saying that’s not gain-of-function research?” said Paul during Tuesday’s hearing.
“That is correct, and Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly,” Fauci said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
“No one is saying those viruses caused the pandemic. What we’re alleging is that gain-of-function research was done in that lab and NIH funded it,” Paul countered. “You can’t get away from it, it meets your definition and you are obfuscating the truth.”
Paul read an NIH definition of gain-of-function research.
“It says that ‘scientific research that increases the transmissibility among animals is gain-of-function,’” he said. “Researchers at Wuhan Institute of Virology ‘took animal viruses…then increased their transmissibility to humans.’ How you can say that is not gain-of-function—it’s a dance, and you’re dancing around this, because you’re trying to obscure responsibility for four million people around the world dying from a pandemic.”
“I totally resent the lie you are now propagating, Senator,” said Fauci, noting that the viruses studied in the WIV paper “are molecularly impossible to result in SARS-CoV-2…You are implying what we did was responsible for the deaths of individuals. If anybody is lying here, Senator, it is you.”
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