Latest News 04-06-2024 13:02 8 Views

Fauci denies seeking to suppress COVID-19 lab leak origin theory

Dr. Anthony Fauci, former Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Monday denied attempting to suppress the theory that the COVID-19 pandemic began as a result of a lab leak in Wuhan, China, during his opening statement before the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Lawmakers proceeded to grill Fauci throughout the hearing on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s six-feet distancing rule, the masking of schoolchildren and other pandemic-era restrictions. 

Fauci testified affirmatively each time when asked by Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Texas, if business closures, church closures, school closures and stay at home order were justified, adding that ‘again, this was when we were trying to stop the tsunami of deaths that were occurring early on – how long you kept them going is debatable.’ 

Asked again about mask mandates, including those for children under the age of 5, Fauci said those were in the context of the time ‘when 5,000 people a day were dying.’ 

‘Mask mandates for children under the age of five? There’s scientific evidence supporting that?’ the congressman asked. 

‘There was no study that did masks on kids before,’ Fauci admitted. ‘You couldn’t do the study. You had to respond to an epidemic that was killing 4-5,000 Americans a day.’ 

Fauci also attempted to clarify an earlier statement that the six-foot social distancing rule ‘just appeared,’ telling committee members that ‘it actually came from the CDC.’ 

‘The CDC was responsible for those kinds of guidelines for schools, not me. So when I said that, it just appeared. It appeared. Was there any science behind it? What I meant by no science behind it is that there wasn’t a controlled trial. That said, compare six foot with three feet with ten feet. So there wasn’t that scientific evaluation of it. What I believe the CDC used for their reason to say six feet is that studies years ago showed that when you’re dealing with droplets, which at the time that the CDC made that recommendation, it was felt that the transmission was primarily through droplet, not aerosol, which is incorrect because we know now aerosol does play a role. That’s the reason why they did it. It had little to do with me since I didn’t make the recommendation.’ 

Fauci also defended vaccine mandates for students, employees and the military by stating, ‘Vaccines save lives. It is very, very clear that vaccines have saved hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions worldwide.’ 

‘In the beginning, it clearly prevented infection in a certain percentage of people but the durability of its ability to prevent infection was not long. It was measured in months,’ he added. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., pressed Fauci on past comments he made during an appearance on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation,’ when he claimed that those who criticize him are ‘really criticizing science because I represent science.’ At the time, the remark drew ire, getting slammed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who accused him of having a ‘delusion of grandeur that you cannot criticize him.’

Elon Musk also criticized Fauci, posting on social media, ‘Anyone who says that questioning them is questioning science itself cannot be regarded as a scientist.’ 

Asked Monday if he represents science, Fauci testified, ‘I am a scientist who uses the scientific method to gain information.’ 

In his opening statement, Fauci addressed the COVID-19 lab leak theory. stressing to the committee that he never sought to suppress that idea.

He testified that on Jan. 31, 2020, he ‘was informed through phone calls with Jeremy Farrar, then director of the Wellcome Trust in the UK, and then with Kristian Anderson, a highly regarded scientist at Scripps Research Institute, that they and Eddie Holmes, a world-class evolutionary biologist from Australia, were concerned that the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 suggested that the virus could have been manipulated in a lab.’ 

The next day, Fauci said, he participated in a conference call ‘with about a dozen international virologists to discuss this possibility versus a spillover from an animal reservoir.’ Fauci described the conference call discussion as ‘lively with arguments for both possibilities,’ and said two participants have testified before the House subcommittee that he ‘did not try to steer the discussion in any direction.’ 

‘It was decided that several participants would more carefully examine the genomic sequence after this further examination. Several who at first were concerned about lab manipulation became convinced that the virus was not deliberately manipulated. They concluded that the most likely scenario was the spillover from an animal reservoir, although they still kept an open mind,’ Fauci said. ‘They appropriately published their opinion in the peer-reviewed literature.’

‘The accusation being circulated that I influenced these scientists to change their minds by bribing them with millions of dollars in grant money is absolutely false and simply preposterous. I had no input into the content of the published paper,’ Fauci said in his opening statement. ‘The second issue is a false accusation that I tried to cover up the possibility that the virus originated from a lab. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite.’ 

The Republican-led subcommittee has spent over a year probing the nation’s response to the pandemic and whether U.S.-funded research in China may have played any role in how it started. Democrats opened the hearing saying the investigation so far has found no evidence that Fauci did anything wrong, while missing an important opportunity to prepare for the next scary outbreak.

Fauci spent 14 hours over two days in January being grilled by the House panel behind closed doors. Monday’s hearing was the first time Fauci was questioned in public and on camera since he ended more than five decades of government service.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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