Dr. Anthony Fauci gave a wide-ranging interview that was published late Thursday that mainly focused on the origins of the coronavirus, and he was asked if he believed his own National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases could have any responsibility for the global pandemic.
“Are you really saying that we are implicated because we gave a multibillion-dollar institution $120,000 a year for bat surveillance?” he asked, according to the Financial Times.
The paper did not post the precise question asked to Fauci, but the top disease doctor has been facing increased criticism by Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul over a $600,000 grant that went to a group called EcoHealth Alliance and ended up at the Chinese lab. The lab was reportedly tasked with studying the risk that bat coronaviruses.
Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, said at a May 25 hearing that the taxpayer-funded grant was not approved to conduct gain-of-function research, which is research that involves modifying a virus to make it more infectious among humans.
NIAID did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News about the comments in the FT.
Fauci told the paper that the medical records of the three workers who were said to have become sick at the Wuhan lab in late 2019 would be beneficial in the probe of the virus’ origin.
“Did they really get sick, and if so, what did they get sick with?” he asked.
“The same with the miners who got ill years ago. … What do the medical records of those people say? Was there [a] virus in those people? What was it? It is entirely conceivable that the origins of Sars-Cov-2 was in that cave and either started spreading naturally or went through the lab,” he said.
Fauci was referring to 2012, when miners became sick after they entered a bat cave, the report said. Three of them died. The paper pointed out that Fauci still believes the virus jumped to humans through animals.
David Asher, the former State Department investigator, told the paper that he respected Fauci, but was “stunned” that he would only now request the records. Asher pointed out that the Trump administration mentioned the reports of sick scientists in January.
China has promoted unproven theories that the virus may have originated elsewhere or even been brought into the country from overseas with imports of frozen seafood tainted with the virus, a notion roundly rejected by international scientists and agencies.
Robert Redfield, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Vanity Fair that in January 2020, he received a message from Dr. George Fu Gao, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gao warned him about sickened individuals in Wuhan. The report said “Redfield immediately offered to send a team of specialists to investigate” because he had suspicions about the Wuhan lab. If a team found antibodies in blood samples of workers there, that would be convincing evidence. China refused, he said.
Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report