Dr Anthony Fauci appealed flustered during a Fox News grilling about his dismissal of the COVID lab leak theory.
The White House COVID tsar, who has long rejected the idea that COVID-19 was engineered in a lab in Wuhan, China, told Fox News anchor Bret Baier Friday that he is now keeping an ‘open mind’ about the virus’ origin.
Fauci said: ‘We have an open mind but it looks very much like this was a natural occurrence, but you keep an open mind.’
Baier countered: ‘When you read the email from Kristian Andersen who says…”one has to look really closely to see some features (potentially) look engineered.”
‘And you say this is a shiny object and it will go away. It does not look like you’re open minded to it.’
He was referring to a February 2020 email sent by Andersen – a California-based virologist – speculating that COVID appeared to be genetically-engineered.
Those emails were released by Republicans in June 2021, as concern continues to mount that COVID did leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Fauci appeared to try to deflect by flattering Baier, saying: ‘Bret, I know youre a good person, I know you a long time.
‘If you take a group of emails when people are considering and thinking out loud, and stop there, and don’t look at the weeks of consideration by the same people who wrote the same emails… in published peer review literature, they explain why they thought it was a natural occurrence.’
Baier then dug even further, and asked Fauci if he’d funded members of the group he’d been chatting to, and edited another paper on the origins of another virus.
The immunologist visibly scoffed at the suggestion.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier (left) grilled Dr. Anthony Fauci (right) about his dismissals of the theory that COVID-19 was created in a lab in Wuhan and about his ties to that lab
Fauci laughed at the idea and said he has always kept an ‘open mind’ about the virus’ origin despite his past insistences that COVID-19 was a natural occurrence
Baier pointed out that he was skeptical of Fauci’s ‘open mind’ given that he appeared to ignore a 2020 email (pictured) sent to him from virus experts that COVID appeared to have elements in it that suggested it may have been engineered in a lab
How Fauci flip-flopped on the origins of COVID
April 2020: Fauci repeatedly made public statements suggesting that that COVID was the result of an ‘unusual human-animal interface’ in a Chinese ‘wet market’ and that ‘the mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.’
May 2020: Still adamant that he didn’t believe the coronavirus was man-made. ‘If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,’ he told National Geographic in an exclusive interview published May 4, 2020. ‘Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.’
Late May 2021 to early June 2021: During an event called ‘United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking,’ Fauci was asked if was ‘still confident’ that the virus evolved naturally.
‘No, actually … I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened,’ Fauci said. ‘Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out.’
He added: ‘So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus.’
Despite saying that nothing could be ruled out over the origin of COVID-19 as officials continue their investigation, Fauci continued to reiterate that the virus was most likely natural.
‘We have an open mind, but it looks very very much like this was a natural occurrence,’ Fauci said.
An investigation by US security services has been unable to determine whether COVID was leaked from a lab, or jumped from an animal into a human.
The Chinese government has hampered attempts to investigate.
And the proximity of the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the first epicenter of the disease has also stoked suspicions.
It is one of only four facilites in the world performing experiments on bat coronaviruses – including COVID-19.
Fauci also claimed he had an open mind since the beginning of the pandemic despite his history of flip-flopping on the issue.
During the early month of the pandemic, Fauci said he was unconvinced that the virus could have come from a lab, but he changed attitudes in May 2021 during the United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking.
At the event, Fauci said he was open to the idea the virus could have originated in a lab and said a thorough investigation in China was needed.
The COVID tsar, however, continued to but heads with Sen. Rand Paul at the time, who called out Fauci’s connections with the Wuhan lab as the health official shut down the claims.
Then in June 2021, A Freedom of Information Act request saw thousands of Fauci’s emails released from last spring – including multiple discussions about COVID being man-made, some of which were later redacted.
In a Jan. 31, 2020 email – more than two months before the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic – Fauci forwarded a copy of Science magazine article titled ‘Mining coronavirus genomes for clues to the outbreak’s origins’ to two people.
US virus researcher Kristian Andersen and Sir Jeremy Farrar, who runs a global health charity in Britain, were on the receiving end of the email.
‘This just came out today. You may have seen it. If not, it is of interest to the current discussion,’ wrote Fauci.
Andersen, who runs a viral genomics lab at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, wrote back, ‘The problem is that our phylogenetic analyses aren’t able to answer whether the sequences are unusual at individual residues, except if they are completely off.
‘The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered.’
Andersen also noted that he and others ‘all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory’ but added that ‘there are still further analyses to be done, so those opinions could still change.’
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Health, had ties with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (pictured), which was gifted $600,000 in 2014 for research into whether bat coronaviruses could be transmitted to humans
Despite the notice, Fauci’s primary opinion that he shared with Americans was that the virus was a natural occurrence and not one that could have originated in a lab.
China has furiously denied that the virus behind COVID-19 escaped from its lab in the original epicenter, accusing the United States of taking a ‘dangerous stance’ in calling for a full investigation into the possibility.
Fauci was at first the public face of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, but the relationship between the NIH head and Trump soured as Trump grew impatient with Fauci’s cautious approach to lockdowns.
Unsurprisingly, Fauci has again become a public face for the White House under the Biden administration.
Republicans have already run their midterm campaigns promising to investigate Fauci. In Congress they have clashed with Fauci on multiple occasions over NIH’s grant funding going toward a lab in the city where COVID-19 originated.
The intense scrutiny comes as Fauci prepares to retire, telling Politico this week that he will be leaving his post before the end of Biden’s term after serving through seven administrations.