Dr. Anthony Fauci says he is keeping an “open mind” over claims that the coronavirus may have leaked from a Chinese lab, despite his long-standing assertion that the virus had a natural origin.
It came when the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a biosafety lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan, was widely believed to be where the coronavirus first emerged.
“When you read the email from Kristian Andersen who says … ‘one has to look really closely to see some features [potentially] look engineered,’” said Fox News anchor Bret Baier. “And you say this is a shiny object and it will go away. It does not look like you’re open minded to it.”
The emails, disclosed by House Republicans in January this year (pdf), however, suggest that Fauci and a small group of top scientists sought to promote the natural origin theory.Andersen, a virologist at California’s Scripps Research Institute, emailed Fauci in January 2020 about the possibility of the virus being engineered, according to documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request.
He told Fauci, “The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome [<0.1%] so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features [potentially] look engineered.”
Weeks later, Andersen published a study that claimed the virus has a natural origin and reportedly received a National Institutes of Health grant.
Fauci dismissed the lab leak theory in May 2020 in a National Geographic interview, saying the evidence “strongly suggests” a natural origin, but backtracked a year later, claiming he was “not convinced” that the virus developed naturally.
Republicans have vowed to investigate Fauci’s involvement in apparently trying to shut down narratives about the virus possibly leaking from the Wuhan lab, if the party takes control of Congress in November’s midterm elections.
Fauci has served as a public health expert for more than 50 years and was appointed as part of the Coronavirus Task Force by former President Donald Trump in 2020.
The 81-year-old revealed this week that he would retire before the end of Biden’s term in 2025.