Health Care

Fauci Whitewashes His Record on the Lab-Leak Theory

Anthony Fauci discusses the coronavirus outbreak with the media outside the White House, March 12, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Dr. Anthony Fauci joined CBS This Morning on Wednesday for a segment in which he defended and misrepresented his record of public statements on the coronavirus’s origins.

“If you go back then, even though you lean towards feeling this is more likely a natural occurrence, we always felt that you gotta keep an open mind — all of us. We didn’t get up and start announcing it, but what we said: ‘Keep an open mind and continue to look.’ So I think it’s a bit of a distortion to say that we deliberately suppressed that” argued Fauci.

Unfortunately for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, a byproduct of his near constant media presence is an extensive stock of quotes that can be pointed to when he accuses others of distorting his record.

In a May 2020 interview with National Geographic, Fauci not only stated that “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 … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species,” but also accused those of disagreed with that assessment of advancing a “circular argument.”

The month before that, Fauci used a question about the lab-leak theory to pour cold water on it, citing a single study as near-definitive evidence that the virus had emerged naturally.

“There was a study recently that we can make available to you, where a group of highly qualified evolutionary virologists looked at the sequences there and the sequences in bats as they evolve. And 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” Fauci told members of the press in the White House briefing room.

Discussion of the lab-leak theory was censored by social media giants and dismissed by mainstream news outlets for the better part of a year based on a supposed “scientific consensus.” But it’s gained more currency in recent weeks, thanks to mounting circumstantial evidence, including new reporting that employees at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill with the virus in the fall of 2019. Beijing’s failure to produce an animal that tested positive for the virus in the wild — and could have served as a bridge between bats and humans — has also contributed to growing skepticism of the natural transmission theory.

As the tide of public opinion has begun to turn, Fauci has begun urging people to keep an open mind in regards to the disease’s origin, though he still favors natural emergence over any variation of the lab-leak theory. However, his early comments on the subject were not those of a nuanced evidence-balancer, but a strong advocate of one idea and ardent opponent of the other.

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