Scientists who are skeptical of chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci’s proclamations about the coronavirus pandemic don’t want to go public with their concerns for fear it will affect their funding, Sen. Rand Paul claimed Tuesday.
“He’s been there for 40 years, probably 39 years too long, but he controls all the funding, so people are deathly afraid of him,” Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, told “Fox News Primetime” of Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984.
“I get letters from scientists all the time. You can find them. They’re very distrustful of what he’s saying,” Paul added. “They don’t think he’s making sense. They don’t think he’s reading the science accurately, but they’re afraid to speak out because many of them are university scientists and they depend on NIH [National Institutes of Health] funds, and to cross him means it’s the last money you’ll ever get.”
Paul is among Fauci’s most fervent critics on Capitol Hill and the senator clashed with the Brooklyn-born virologist again earlier Tuesday over the issue of whether NIH funded so-called “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11 where you claimed that the NIH never funded gain-of-function research and move on?” asked Paul.
“Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement,” Fauci responded.
Paul has maintained that a 2015 paper about bat coronaviruses co-authored by Dr. Shi Zhengli, a Wuhan Institute of Virology researcher known as the “bat woman” for her work on the topic, represents proof that the NIH financed research increasing the transmissibility and virulence of viruses.
Fauci has denied that the work outlined in the paper constituted gain-of-function research and did so again on Tuesday.
“This paper that you’re referring to was judged by qualified staff, up and down the chain, as not being gain-of-function,” the doctor insisted.
“Gain-of-function research is defined by the NIH. We read the definition to him,” Paul said Tuesday night.
“It’s when you take an animal virus and you make it more transmissible or more dangerous, or more likely to cause a disease in humans. So we presented a paper from the Wuhan Institute, by Dr. Shi, where she took viruses, combined two viruses, that were not infectious in humans and made them infectious in humans … and all Dr. Fauci could do was sputter, call me a liar, but he never, at any point in time, did he address the facts that we laid out – that the money he was giving to Wuhan was indeed for gain of function,” he added.
At one point during the hearing, a visibly annoyed Fauci told Paul that “you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially.” Paul, for his part, accused Fauci of “dancing around this, because you’re trying to obscure responsibility for 4 million people dying around the globe because of the pandemic.”
“If this disease came from the lab and they were funding gain of function, guess what? There’s at the very least moral culpability he has for the beginning of the pandemic,” Paul told Fox News. “But if you go back to Fauci’s statements in 2012, he said that the research was worth it even if a pandemic should occur, even if a leak from a lab should occur, the research was worth it. That, to me, shows incredibly bad judgment.”
The theory that the coronavirus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology rather than jumping naturally from animals to humans, once dismissed as fringe, has gained traction in recent months.
Earlier this week, CNN reported that an increasing number of top Biden administration officials back the so-called “lab leak theory,” though opinion remains split with the zoonotic theory. In May, President Biden ordered the intelligence community to conduct a 90-day review of all evidence related to the origins of the pandemic.