Behind the Scenes of the Natural Origin Narrative

September 29, 2021 Updated: September 30, 2021

Commentary

A sequence of events in early 2020 suggest that Dr. Anthony Fauci and a small group of scientists sought to promote the natural origins theory as a means to avoid public scrutiny of the possibility that COVID-19 had leaked from a lab.

Fauci received several warnings in late Jan. 2020 that prompted him to hold a private teleconference on Feb. 1, 2020. Emails from participants show that during this teleconference, the two main presenters made clear to the teleconference group that they believed it was a real possibility that COVID-19 originated from a lab.

These same presenters were simultaneously completing an article, later known as Proximal Origin, which publicly promoted the Natural Origins theory and dismissed any lab leak theories. Proximal Origin, which would prove to be highly influential, would be viewed more than half a million times and has been extensively used by Fauci and the corporate media in their promotion of the natural origins narrative.

Two days after the teleconference, some of these same scientists, including Fauci, would be invited by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), to assist in the drafting of a response letter to an inquiry made by the Trump White House regarding the virus’s origins.

Fauci’s scientists, who forcefully pushed their natural origins narrative to NASEM, made no mention of their private discussion that the virus likely originated in a lab. But directors at NASEM chose instead to disregard their input in their formal response to the White House.

Despite this setback, Fauci and his scientists would continue to aggressively push the natural origins narrative for the next 18 months.

A High-Risk Proposal

In 2018, EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak, a long-standing collaborator of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, drew up a blueprint for creating a COVID-like virus in the lab as part of a funding proposal submitted to the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program.

The proposal detailed how Daszak and a group of scientists under his direction planned to insert a furin cleavage site into coronaviruses to make them more transmissible to humans.

DARPA eventually decided not to fund the research because it was deemed too risky, and it remains unclear whether it was ever conducted.

The furin cleavage site is the defining feature of COVID-19 that sets it apart from any related viruses and is key for the virus’s pathogenicity in humans. This feature of COVID-19 was often puzzled over by scientists early in the pandemic.

Indeed, a more recent study in the science journal Nature noted that the COVID-19 virus was uniquely adapted to infect humans, as it “exhibited the highest binding to human (h)ACE2 of all the species tested.”

Daszak managed to successfully conceal the existence of his 2018 proposal until it was leaked earlier this month.

The Start of a Narrative

As news of the outbreak in Wuhan first started filtering out of China on Dec. 31, 2019, one of the first things Daszak did was to write a same-day Twitter thread, which essentially blamed animal-to-human transmission for the outbreak.

Daszak’s thread was written at a time when no one outside of China knew anything about the virus, let alone its origins.

A few weeks later, on Jan. 27, 2019, Daszak emailed a notification to a colleague of Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that appeared to provide talking points in the eventuality that Fauci was asked by the media about the collaboration between himself and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It isn’t clear if and when Fauci received Daszak’s warning.

Notably, Daszak’s warning came before any public reporting of the potential connection between Fauci and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

That public reporting materialized on Jan. 31, 2020, when the journal Science published an article that indirectly linked to a 2015 research paper that held proof that Fauci’s NIAID had funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The Jan. 31, 2020, article, which appears to have been based on input from scientists who would later be part of Fauci’s teleconference group, took pains to discount the lab leak theory, noting that the viral sequences “knock down the idea the pathogen came from a virology institute in Wuhan.”

But the article also indirectly linked to a 2015 research paper co-authored by Shi Zhengli, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Within three days of publication, the 2015 paper, which detailed gain-of-function experiments, triggered warnings from the scientific community, leading one scientist to note that: “The only impact of this work is the creation, in a lab, of a new, non-natural risk.”

This same article apparently triggered warnings for Fauci, but for entirely different reasons. Despite Fauci’s repeated denials that he ever funded gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the 2015 paper clearly stated that “Research in this manuscript was supported by grants from the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease.”

Fauci sent the 2015 paper to NIAID’s principal deputy director, Hugh Auchincloss, on the morning of Feb. 1, 2020, telling him, “It is essential that we speak this AM. Keep your cell phone on.” Auchincloss responded to Fauci later that same day, acknowledging “The [2015] paper you sent me says the experiments were performed before the gain of function pause but have since been reviewed and approved by NIH.

Auchincloss closed by telling Fauci they would “try to determine if we have any distant ties to this work abroad.”

It was the pathway to this 2015 research paper, contained in the Jan. 31, 2020, Science article, that set off events that led to Fauci’s Feb. 1, 2020, secret teleconference.

Almost immediately after the Science article was published in the early evening of Jan. 31, 2020, Fauci began sharing it among colleagues at NIAID and with Jeremy Farrar, the head of the UK’s Wellcome Trust. Fauci also forwarded the article to Kristian Andersen, a Fauci-funded scientist from Scripps Research, noting that it was “of interest to the current discussion.”

In a prelude to the Feb. 1, 2020, teleconference, Andersen and Fauci discussed the virus’ unique genomic sequence, with Andersen telling Fauci that the virus looked engineered.

This topic of discussion would be carried into the teleconference the next day with one participant emailing other participants: “We need to talk about the backbone too, not just the insert?”

Scientists Created Natural Origins Theory on Same Day They Privately Said Virus Came From Lab

According to emails that were released under a Freedom of Information Act request, at least two presentations were made during this teleconference, with Andersen telling Fauci’s group that he was “60 to 70 percent” sure the virus came from a laboratory. Edward Holmes, a scientist who worked for and with the head of the Chinese CDC from 2014 to 2020, told the teleconference group that he was “80 percent sure the virus came out of a lab.”

On the same day that Andersen and Holmes were telling Fauci that the virus likely came out of a lab, they, along with two other members of the teleconference group, completed a draft research paper that promoted the natural origins narrative. That paper, Proximal Origin, was published on Feb. 16, 2020, and would be used by Fauci, other scientists, and the media to promote the natural origins narrative, while simultaneously condemning any lab leak theories as conspiracy theories.

That Andersen and Holmes were actively drafting their Proximal Origin article on the very same day that they were telling Fauci and his group that they believed the virus might have come from a lab has thus far escaped proper scrutiny.

Members of the teleconference group would later claim that their acceptance and promotion of the natural origin theory began over a period of weeks and months following the teleconference, once they had a chance to more fully examine the evidence.

But the fact that four members of the teleconference group had finalized a draft of the paper that would be used to promote the natural origins narrative on the same day as the teleconference shatters the group’s excuse. They realized that the COVID outbreak had likely originated from a lab and set about constructing a natural origins theory that would be used in their attempt to disguise the origin of the pandemic.

Fauci, along with Farrar, controls a large portion of the funds available for virological research in the Western world—and in China. Andersen alone has received at least 12 grants from Fauci’s organization totaling more than $10 million.

WHO Leader Referenced in Emails; ZeroHedge Banned

Despite claims that the group later changed their opinion, efforts to promote their natural origin theory began immediately.

Emails sent by the group following the teleconference and into the next day made repeated references to World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. National Institutes of Health (NIH) head Francis Collins emailed Fauci and Farrar:  “I can make myself available at any time 24/7 for the call with Tedros.”

The next day, Collins followed up, telling Fauci and Farrar that he was available for a “call to Tedros. Let me know if I can help get through his thicket of protectors,” he wrote.

A final, somewhat cryptic email was sent by Farrar on the afternoon of Feb. 2, 2020, to Fauci and Collins, telling them that Tedros needed “to decide today.” At the end of the email, Farrar added a reference to the online news site ZeroHedge, which had just published an article on the possibility that the coronavirus came out of a lab.

During a speech made the next day, on Feb. 3, Tedros announced that “Social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Tencent, and TikTok have also taken steps to limit the spread of misinformation.”

On the same day that Tedros made his speech, and just one day after Farrar’s message, ZeroHedge was banned from Twitter.

Two Days After Teleconference Fauci Scientists Push Natural Origins Theory to NASEM

On Feb. 3, 2020, the same day as Tedros’ speech, White House Director of Science and Technology Policy Kelvin Droegmeier directed the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, or NASEM, to “help determine the origins of 2019-nCoV.”

Droegmeier’s Feb. 3 letter set off a rapid response. By noon, Andrew Pope, a director at NASEM, had organized an in-person conference to discuss the White House’s request.

The NASEM meeting, scheduled for 2 p.m. the same day, included a 10-minute presentation from Fauci and also included Daszak and Andersen.

Although the NASEM meeting took place just two days after Fauci was told by Andersen and Holmes that a lab leak was likely, this information wasn’t disclosed to the NASEM directors. Instead, Fauci and his scientists actively promoted their natural origins narrative.

Following the NASEM meeting, Pope asked the scientists for feedback on a draft letter he had prepared, which was based on the information and presentations made the day before by Fauci’s scientists.

Andersen told Pope that “The main crackpot theories going around at the moment relate to this virus being somehow engineered with intent and that is demonstrably not the case. Engineering can mean many things and could be done for either basic research or nefarious reasons, but the data conclusively show that neither was done.”

Trevor Bedford, an associate professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who has received large amounts of funding from Fauci’s parent organization, the NIH, told Pope that “if you start weighing evidence, there’s a lot to consider for both scenarios.” Despite his private acknowledgment, Bedford suggested that Pope’s letter should state there was “no evidence of genetic engineering full stop.”

It’s interesting to note that Bedford responded to Pope as if he assumed that Pope was aligned with the natural origins group. But it’s possible that Bedford’s admission that there was evidence to support multiple theories while suggesting they mention only a natural origin, may have led Pope to reconsider how much reliance he could place on the small group of scientists.

Pope’s initial draft letter appeared to accept the natural origins theory, stating that the available data was “consistent with natural evolutions.” Pope’s draft also noted that there is “currently no evidence that the virus was engineered to spread more quickly among humans.”

Emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request indicate that Daszak and the other scientists believed that NASEM would adopt the natural origins narrative that they had put forth. Daszak appeared to be so confident that he had even begun to solicit signatures for the draft of his own natural origins letter that would be published in Lancet, telling potential signatories that he planned to circulate his letter to coincide with the letter from NASEM.

But the finalized version of Pope’s NASEM letter didn’t go in the direction that the natural origin proponents had intended.

NASEM Letter Discards Fauci Group’s Narrative

Unbeknownst to Daszak or the other scientists, Pope had written an entirely new response that was much more cautious in its tone, noting that additional data was needed to determine the origin of the virus. Nowhere in the finalized version of NASEM’s White House response was natural origin mentioned. Moreover, earlier references to the virus being “consistent with natural evolution” and the statement that there was “no evidence that the virus was engineered” were deleted altogether.

Pope’s unanticipated reversal was a strong indication that NASEM had significant reservations about the natural origins narrative that had been pushed by Fauci’s experts.

Daszak ended up postponing the publication of his Lancet letter until Feb. 19, 2020. In his letter, he stated: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” But he falsely stated that “This is further supported by a letter from the presidents of [NASEM].”

It isn’t known why the Lancet published Daszak’s letter without checking his assertions. The Lancet’s editor, Richard Horton, has a long history of praising the Chinese government, including an appearance on China’s CCTV, during which he said China should not be blamed for the pandemic and in which he criticized U.S. politicians for “giving credence to conspiracy theories.”

The day after NASEM’s reversal, Farrar suddenly emailed one of the three signatories of the NASEM letter, Victor Dzau. Farrar offered assistance with understanding the virus’s origins, noting that “a close-knit group have been looking at this for the last 10 days and might have some information to share which might help.” Farrar failed to mention that members of his own group had already advised NASEM.

By going directly to Dzau, whom he knew personally, Farrar may have been trying to circumvent Pope, as well as the other NASEM signatories, in an attempt to shift NASEM’s conclusion back toward the natural origin narrative.

Although NASEM didn’t revise their letter, Fauci’s group appears to have achieved what they set out to do.

During a press conference in April 2020, President Donald Trump mentioned the possibility of a lab leak. When a reporter asked Fauci about his thoughts on the lab leak theory, Fauci immediately dismissed it, claiming that a recent article had determined that the virus was “totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.”

The article cited by Fauci was Proximal Origin, authored by Andersen and Holmes on the same day as the teleconference when they privately claimed the virus had likely emerged from a lab.

Jeff Carlson
Jeff Carlson co-hosts the show Truth Over News on Epoch TV. He is a CFA-registered Charterholder and worked for 20 years as an analyst and portfolio manager in the high-yield bond market. He also runs the website TheMarketsWork.com and can be followed on Twitter @themarketswork.
Hans Mahncke
Hans Mahncke co-hosts the show Truth Over News on Epoch TV. He holds LL.B., LL.M. and Ph.D. degrees in law. He is the author of numerous law books and his research has been published in a range of international journals. Hans can be followed on Twitter @hansmahncke.