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Why Fauci is suddenly willing to entertain the COVID lab leak theory

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 5/24/2021 Kaylee McGhee White
Anthony S. Fauci wearing glasses and looking at the camera © Provided by Washington Examiner

All of the so-called scientific experts knew from the very beginning of this pandemic that it was plausible COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and spread to the rest of the world. They just didn’t want you to know that.

When Republicans first raised questions about the WIV’s role in the COVID-19 outbreak back in early 2020, the experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, were quick to dismiss them as baseless, unscientific allegations. From a May 2020 interview with National Geographic: 

“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,” Fauci said. Based on the scientific evidence, he also doesn’t entertain an alternate theory—that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped.

“Sure, but what if scientists found the virus outside the lab, brought it back, and then it escaped?” Fauci was asked.
“But that means it was in the wild to begin with,” he replied. “That's why I don't get what they're talking about [and] why I don't spend a lot of time going in on this circular argument.”

It turns out that the “circular argument” Fauci found so ridiculous last year is the one that makes the most sense, which even he had to admit this month. When asked if he was still confident COVID-19 emerged naturally, Fauci said, "No, actually. ... No, I’m not convinced about that. I think that we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out to the best of our ability exactly what happened.”

"Certainly, the people who’ve investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could’ve been something else, and we need to find that out,” he added. “So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus."

What’s so frustrating about Fauci’s admission is that much of the information about the WIV, the research it was conducting, and the lack of proper safety protocol in the lab has been available for months. We’ve known since last year that in 2018 U.S. science diplomats warned the State Department that the WIV’s poor lab practices were extremely concerning given the dangerous research its researchers were conducting.

We have also known for months that the WIV was experimenting with various coronavirus strains because Dr. Shi Zheng, the head the coronavirus project at the WIV, admitted as much to multiple publications. And, we have known since late last year because of a Trump State Department investigation that Dr. Shi’s research was potentially gain-of-function, which means it was meant to “improve the ability of a pathogen,” in this case a coronavirus, to “cause disease.”

Fauci has known all of this for months, so why is he just now beginning to admit that the lab leak theory is worth consideration? The simplest answer is that the lab leak theory is now mainstream, so it’s a lot easier for Fauci to entertain it. Scientists are no longer dismissing it out of hand; in fact, they’re demanding an investigation into it. Fauci would look out-of-touch if he didn’t do the same.

The more cynical explanation for Fauci’s flip-flop is that he wants to get rid of any skepticism regarding his role as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and its relationship with the WIV. Fauci has denied that his agency, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health, directly funded gain-of-function research at the WIV, but the facts suggest otherwise. The NIH awarded several grants to New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, a health nonprofit that in turn provided at least $600,000 of the NIH’s funding to the Wuhan lab for bat coronavirus research. And we’re to believe Fauci and the NIH had absolutely no idea what the WIV was up to?

The lab leak theory was always the most plausible one, even when Fauci and the rest of the scientific community dismissed it as a right-wing conspiracy theory pushed by tin foil hat-wearing kooks. And the only reason they are now willing to “reconsider” the possibility is that there is too much evidence in its favor to keep ignoring it.

Tags: Beltway Confidential, Opinion, Coronavirus, Anthony Fauci, China, research, Science

Original Author: Kaylee McGhee White

Original Location: Why Fauci is suddenly willing to entertain the COVID lab leak theory

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