Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a hearing looking into the budget estimates for National Institute of Health (NIH) and the state of medical research on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 26, 2021.
Sarah Silbiger | Pool | AFP | Getty Images
Dr. Anthony Fauci is facing increasing calls from Republican lawmakers for his termination over what they say is a shift in his position on whether the U.S. government funded research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the White House, told lawmakers Tuesday that the National Institutes of Health funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology through the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance with $600,000 over a period of five years. Funding to the nonprofit was eventually halted by the NIH.
He denied that the funding was specifically used for so-called gain of function research, which is altering a virus to make it either more transmissible or deadly to better predict new pathogens and ways to fight them.
On Wednesday during a Senate hearing, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., further questioned Fauci’s faith in the Wuhan lab’s scientists. “How do you know they didn’t lie to you and use the money for gain of function research anyway?” Kennedy asked Fauci.
Fauci said there was no way to guarantee that the scientists and grantees did not lie. “You never know,” he said.
He added that scientists at the lab are “trustworthy” and that he would expect they complied with the conditions of the grant, which was to study the transmission of coronaviruses from bats to humans to better understand the SARS-CoV-1 epidemic in the early 2000s.
“I don’t have enough insight into the Communist Party in China to know the interactions between them and the scientists,” Fauci said when asked whether the Chinese government influences its scientists. He also said he has no way of knowing the influence of the Chinese government on the World Health Organization after Kennedy implied that the WHO is in the pocket of the Chinese government.
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he has ordered a closer intelligence review of what he said were two equally plausible scenarios of the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic — that it originated in a lab or from an animal. The director of national intelligence previously agreed that the two scenarios are equally likely.
Biden revealed that he tasked the intelligence community earlier this year with preparing “a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of Covid-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”
“As of today, the U.S. Intelligence Community has ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question,” Biden said in a statement.
Federal health officials maintain that it is more likely that the virus has a natural origin, but do not exclude a lab leak as a possibility.
Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, recently introduced the Fauci Incompetence Requires Early Dismissal Act, which called for Fauci’s termination.
“Dr. Fauci represents everything that President Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell address: the scientific-technical elite steering the country toward their own ends,” Davidson said in a statement.
The Republican lawmakers also said they believe Fauci misled the American people early in the pandemic in regard to mask guidance. Fauci said in early March 2020: “Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks.” He later clarified he meant that masks should be prioritized for health workers, but Republican lawmakers maintain that Fauci lied.
GOP lawmakers also claim that Fauci misled Americans when he said there would be an explosion of coronavirus cases after Texas lifted its mask mandate.
“It is long past time for Dr. Fauci to stop talking to the American public. Fauci should resign or be fired immediately,” said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa.
Correction: Warren Davidson, R.-Ohio, is a member of the House of Representatives. An earlier version misstated his title.