White House Stands by Fauci Over Gain-of-Function Research Controversy

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
September 10, 2021 Updated: September 10, 2021

The White House signaled Thursday its continued support of the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, following the release of documents detailing U.S.-funded coronavirus research in China.

Statements Fauci made to Congress have come under review following the release of more than 900 pages of documents, obtained by The Intercept, detailing the use of federal money by the U.S.-based health organization, EcoHealth Alliance, to fund bat coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.

Critics say the documents show Fauci misled Congress when he repeatedly asserted the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has never funded the controversial gain-of-function (GOF) research at the Chinese lab.

When asked at Thursday’s White House Press Briefing if she would retract a previous statement that under “no circumstances” President Joe Biden would consider firing Fauci, White House press secretary Jen Psaki doubled down in support of the doctor.

“NIH has never approved any research that would make the coronavirus more dangerous to humans,” said Psaki.

“A reminder that there are previous and different coronaviruses than the existing one we’re battling, and the body of science produced by this research demonstrates that the bat coronavirus sequences published from that work the NIH supported were not the strain, the COV-2 strain. So, what [Fauci] said was correct.”

Epoch Times Photo
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC on Sept. 09, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The newly released documents include two grant proposals funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

One of which, “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” totaled $666,422. It outlines a plan, led by EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak, to “investigate the ecology, evolutionary biology, and transmission dynamics of bat coronaviruses at the human-wildlife interface.”

It is unclear if the second grant awarded by the NIH to EcoHealth Alliance, “Understanding Risk of Zoonotic Virus Emergence in Emergent Infectious Disease Hotpots of Southeast Asia,” was withdrawn or suspended by the government after being awarded in August 2020 to extend through 2025.

The bat coronavirus grant provided EcoHealth Alliance with a total of $3.1 million, including $599,000 that the Wuhan Institute of Virology used in part to identify and alter bat coronaviruses likely to infect humans, according to The Intercept.

In an email to The Epoch Times, an NIH spokesperson reiterated Psaki’s comment writing: “The research we supported in China, where coronaviruses are prevalent, sought to understand the behavior of coronaviruses circulating in bats that have the potential to cause widespread disease. The body of science produced by this research demonstrates that the bat coronavirus sequences published from that work NIH supported were not SARS-CoV-2. More importantly, because of similar research to understand coronaviruses, we were able to move swiftly to develop vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and save lives.”

Epoch Times Photo
A sign is displayed behind Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks to Dr. Anthony Fauci in Washington on July 20, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images)

Fauci has sparred repeatedly with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) on the issue of GOF research during congressional hearings, including one instance in July where Paul suggested Fauci lied to Congress about whether the NIH funded GOF.

Fauci responded by saying he “never lied before the Congress” and that the NIH did not fund GOF research at the Wuhan lab. Fauci told Paul, “you do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly.”

Paul seemed to see the release of documents by The Intercept as a victory when he tweeted out Tuesday: “I was right about his agency funding novel Coronavirus research at Wuhan.”

Paul’s tweet was a re-tweet of Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, who wrote: “The materials confirm the grants supported the construction—in Wuhan—of novel chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses that combined a spike gene from one coronavirus with genetic information from another coronavirus, and confirmed the resulting viruses could infect human cells.

“The documents make it clear that assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful.”

The documents also shine a light on the theory that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic originated from a lab leak in Wuhan. The regime has faced criticism from the international research community and has been accused of engaging in a cover-up.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.