Newly unredacted emails reveal that former NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci was aware that risky gain-of-function research was occurring in Wuhan, China, prior to the emergence of COVID-19, even though he referred to this fact in public as a “conspiracy theory.”
Earlier this week, House Republicans on the subcommittee investigating the origin of the Covid-19 virus released a trove of new documents related to their investigation. Some of the documents exposed the conversations of the scientists behind an influential paper claiming that the virus had emerged naturally in a Chinese “wet market.”
The highly controversial paper, “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2,” was published in Nature Medicine on March 17, 2020, and was the subject of a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
In a February 1, 2020 email to colleagues, Fauci acknowledged that scientists were working on gain-of-function experiments at Wuhan University. Fauci sent the email following a task force phone call with British biomedical scientist Jeremy Farrar, then-NIH Director Francis Collins and “several highly credible doctors,” like Dr. Kristian Andersen of Scripps Research, who believed the virus sprung from a lab.
“They were concerned about the fact that upon viewing the sequences of several isolates of the nCoV, there were mutations in the virus that would be most unusual to have evolved naturally in the bats and that there was a suspicion that this mutation was intentionally inserted,” Fauci wrote.
“The suspicion was heightened by the fact that scientists in Wuhan University are known to have been working on gain-of-function experiments to determine the molecular mechanisms associated with bat viruses adapting to human infection, and the outbreak originated in Wuhan.”
Fauci noted in the email that “some of the scientists felt strongly about this possibility,” but in the end, they all agreed to his “strong suggestion” to gather a larger group of experts “under the auspices of an internationally credible organization like the WHO” to examine “the evolutionary origins of COVID-19 for future risk assessment and understanding of animal/human coronaviruses.”
The then-NIAID director stressed that “this way, there is no assumption of foul play or guilt on anyone’s part and merely an intense scientific look at the evolutionary origins of the virus.”
Just eight days after Dr. Fauci admitted there were unusual mutations in the virus that pointed to a lab leak and gain-of-function experiments were happening in Wuhan, the former NIAID director appeared on former congressman Newt Gingrich’s podcast and called concerns about a lab leak a “conspiracy theory.”
“Well, I think ultimately we know these things come from an animal reservoir,” Fauci said. “I’ve heard these conspiracy theories and like all conspiracy theories, Newt, they’re just conspiracy theories. Is it impossible that that could have happened? I don’t think I can say that it’s not impossible,” he added.
Fauci went on to suggest the very opposite of what he said in his email about how examinations of the sequences of several isolates in COVID showed unusual mutations that made it unlikely they evolved naturally in the bats.
Using the similar jargon, Fauci told Gingrich that examinations of the “molecular structure” of the isolates indicated that it was much more likely that the virus “percolated in another species” such as a bat or a cat and then “jumped species into humans.”
“But I think that the more you examine the isolates, the more we get information, we’ll be able to clarify the evolutionary origin of the virus,” Fauci said, adding, “but right now, I think the things you’re hearing are still in the realm of conspiracy theories without any scientific basis for it.”
UNBELIEVABLE! Audio: Dr. Fauci on @newtgingrich's podcast on Feb 9, 2020 CALLING a lab leak a "conspiracy theory" – just one week after the NOW unredacted email where Fauci admits 1) there were unusual mutations in the virus and 2) Wuhan was doing gain of function experiments.… pic.twitter.com/128OyApvuP
— Justin Hart (@justin_hart) July 14, 2023