Shortly after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., grilled a squirming Dr. Anthony Fauci during a Senate hearing on gain of function research, Wuhan Institute of Virology funding, and a potential for a lab accident, Fauci quietly offered some stunning admissions to Politifact.
First, he now admits he is "not convinced" COVID-19 developed naturally; second, perhaps equally alarmingly, he admits the U.S. engaged with and helped fund Chinese scientists on studying coronaviruses.
"No, I am not convinced about that [COVID-19 having a natural origin]," Fauci told Politifact's Katie Sanders at a virtual event called "United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking" (around 11 minutes in).
"I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened.
"Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out. 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."
That latter point did echo Fauci's comments to Paul during Senate testimony, but coincidentally, a Politifact forum actually did not fact check Fauci on some other admissions that did not jibe with his Senate testimony in the exchange with Paul.
Paul grilled Fauci on whether the U.S. helped fund and research coronaviruses with China, and Fauci admitted to precisely that, suggesting it would be "irresponsible" to not have done it.
"No actually, that's the point that I said," Fauci said of the need to investigate the origins of COVID-19, "and I think the real unfortunate aspect of what Sen. Paul did is he conflating research in a collaborative way with Chinese scientists, which is you almost have to say, if we did not do that, we would almost be irresponsible, because SARS-CoV-1 clearly originated in China and we were fortunate to escape a major pandemic.
"So we really had to learn a lot more about the viruses that were there. About whether or not people were getting infected with bat viruses."
Paul suggested Fauci was helping fund "gain of function research," which Fauci "categorically" denied, but Fauci conflated Paul's questions on gain of function to suggest the U.S. had no role, or funding, in researching coronavirus infections with Chinese scientists, which Fauci just admitted to above.
He also admitted to Politifact, the U.S. did help fund Wuhan coronavirus research with "Chinese scientists" – albeit with a verbal slip saying "Chinese Communist."
"So, on a very minor collaboration as part of a sub-contract of a grant, we had a collaboration with some Chinese Communist . . . Chinese scientists," Fauci told Politifact. "What he conflated with that is that we were involved in creating the virus, which is the most ridiculous, majestic leap I have ever heard of."
Paul's questioning was not accusing the U.S of creating the virus – as Fauci himself conflated – but suggesting National Institutes of Health and Fauci's National Institute of Allergy and Infections Disease indirectly helped fund gain of function research in China that might have created it.
A true fact check from a Politifact forum: Mixed.
The U.S. funded research, yes, but what kind, Fauci says, still needs to be investigated. Ostensibly, he is not entirely aware of what studies the NIH funds might have been used for, and he would like to know.
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