"Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially," said the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director. “I totally resent the lie you are now propagating.”
Fauci’s comments were made during one of his testier exchanges with Rand Paul , the Kentucky senator whom he had sparred with in a series of congressional hearings on the National Institutes of Health’s funding of risky "gain-of-function" research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The truth would emerge slowly over the next two years.
In a pair of letters sent to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in October 2021, NIH conceded that funding provided to the nonprofit organization EcoHealth Alliance had indeed resulted in an “unexpected result”: An enhanced coronavirus from bats that had been created through a partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Francis Collins, then the director of NIH, which oversees NIAID, claimed the letters were sent “to set the record straight” on the controversial research. In reality, NIH sent the letters a month after the Intercept published documents revealing NIH had funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab.
The Fauci-Paul feud seems like history today. Fauci is no longer the director of NIAID and no longer on TV every day. Perhaps that’s why new evidence showing that Paul’s instincts were correct has garnered so little attention.
A little over two weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to the Wuhan Institute of Virology informing officials that HHS was terminating all funding for the lab.
"NIH determined that the WIV may have conducted an experiment yielding a level of viral activity which was greater than permitted under the terms of the grant,” the letter stated, “which possibly did lead or could lead to health issues or other unacceptable outcomes.”
The letter helps explain why Fauci became so angry under Paul’s questioning.
In his previous visit to Congress in May, Fauci had stated that the NIH “has not ever, and does not now, fund gain-of-function at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
Paul challenged Fauci on this point, reminding him it was a felony to lie to Congress and pointing to a paper authored by Dr. Shi Zhengli, a lead researcher at the institute, titled , “Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus.”
Paul noted that Shi’s research, which was funded by NIH, took bat coronavirus genes and combined them with a SARS-related backbone to enhance their transmissibility to humans. The "research matches, indeed epitomizes the definition of gain-of-function research," said Paul, quoting Dr. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University.
Fauci’s response was to bluster that Paul “didn’t know what he was talking about” and say that Shi’s paper “was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain-of-function.”
Fauci was effectively telling Paul that Shi’s research was not gain-of-function, even though the research fit NIH’s own definition of gain-of-function…because his agency had said so.
More than two years later, NIH itself has declared it’s now “undisputed” that the Wuhan Institute of Virology likely violated protocols on biosafety. It’s the culmination of a long story.
HHS letter to Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), 09/19/23: "NIH determined that..WIV conducted an experiment that violated the terms of the grant regarding viral activity, which possibly did lead..to..unacceptable outcomes" https://t.co/EO7H6kHxRy pic.twitter.com/oTQ9XsnR6m— Richard H. Ebright (@R_H_Ebright) September 20, 2023
NIH’s letter to Wuhan comes more than three years after the agency first axed its grant to EcoHealth Alliance, which had been funding Shi’s research, a decision that caused great controversy at the time.
Today it is beyond dispute that EcoHealth Alliance’s bat coronavirus research resulted in an “unexpected result”: a virus with a viral load as much as 10,000 times greater than allowed. And though NIH claims they didn’t know that EcoHealth Alliance violated the terms of their grant, EcoHealth Alliance disputes this claim.
“These data were reported as soon as we were made aware, in our year four report in April 2018,” EcoHealth alliance said in a statement .
None of this is to say that Shi’s research or NIH’s grant caused the pandemic. There is no conclusive proof on that front.
But it does help explain Fauci’s (alleged) secret trips to CIA headquarters, and why he worked so hard behind the scenes to make the public believe that COVID-19 could not possibly have emerged from Wuhan.
We may never know the origins of COVID, but one thing we do know: Anthony Fauci has been dishonest about NIH’s role since the beginning — and he owes Rand Paul an apology.