This is the long-awaited follow-up between Senator Rand Paul and the NIH’s Dr Fauci. Readers of this blog may recall that in a previous encounter Dr Faucci looked Rand Paul in the eye and articulated clearly and with great emphasis. “The NIH did not fund gain-of-function research in Wuhan”. See the video below at 1.32. Since then of course the NIH has had to issue a clarification about this. And now (see above 3m) we are told that “gain-of-function” is a “nebulous” concept. If it is “nebulous” then how could he at the earlier hearing have so categorically denied that he funded it? Dr Fauci is lying.
This should be the media story of the day – the US lead doctor on Covid was intimately involved in funding the lab in China (according to some views in violation of his own agency’s protocols on gain-of-function research – see below) which US intelligence considers as a real possibility to have been the source of the pandemic. And yet an almost total blackout in the liberal media. Very, very odd.
A few other comments – notice that Dr Fauci is trying to confuse and throw Rand Paul off the scent by throwing a lot of scientific terms at him and then, rather amusingly, falls over the words himself. (I don’t feel pity for Dr Fauci – the pandemic has killed millions of people and it is long past time he stopped playing games with legal positions and artful wording and just came clean).
Fauci then says “I have no responsibility for the current pandemic”. The whole point is he does not know that and cannot know that. No one (outside of the Wuhan labs and the Chinese leadership of course) knows for sure if Sars-Cov-2 came from the lab or nature. According to US intelligence it is quite literally 50-50. Fauci cannot know that he has no responsibility. His organisation funded the risky experiments (call them gain of function or not) in Wuhan that may well have led to the pandemic. At best he can say (and one imagines this is what he thinks in private) “I hope to goodness I don’t have any responsibility for the current pandemic”. Finally, he tries to score a rhetorical point by saying that Paul had said the NIH still funds the WIV when (he says) the last funding point was in August last year. This is just a rhetorical point to try to discredit Rand Paul in the eyes of the viewer; it is hardly a question of substance. August last year was already long after they should have stopped funding this lab – a key suspect in being the source of the pandemic. (It seems that one research grant is suspended; Paul’s point is that the NIH has left open the possibility of continuing to fund the WIV. )
The problem with Dr Fauci is it is hard to keep up with the lies. When I initially wrote this post I simply missed the next one. But it is an egregious lie – Fauci is deliberately telling it for the benefit of the “people who are listening” – knowing that many, who are not following this story closely, will fall for it. Fauci specifically responds to Paul’s claim that the “preponderance of evidence is that the pandemic came from the lab” by saying that the “majority of card-carrying viral phylogeneticists and molecular virologists believe … that it is much more likely that this was a natural occurrence”. (Small point – Fauci lies again and says that Paul said “overwhelming amount of evidence”; he didn’t, he said “preponderance of evidence” which is a different degree of probability. Fauci is instinctively misrepresenting Paul’s argument; Fauci is on a course of lies and he is looking for angles to bolster his false story; misrepresenting Paul’s views is one of his go-to tactics). Here Fauci is recycling the notorious March 2020 letter in Nature Medicine where a group of virologists including one who can be linked to Fauci, Kristian G. Andersen (Fauci had a call with him and he attended a crisis management meeting with him early on in the pandemic when the possibility of a lab leak first appeared) - wrote that “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus” .  But, as Nicholas Wade (former Nature writer) points out there are ways of manipulating viruses which do not leave any sign of artificial manipulation. One of these is called serial passage – when a virus is repeatedly passed through a cell culture to engender rapid mutation.  The internal genetic evidence from the virus cannot establish conclusively that it did not come from a lab. (See also this point confirmed by Stanford molecular biologist Dr David Relman ). Fauci must know this. He is lying and doing so quite deliberately and as he himself admits in his presentation – for the benefit of the “listeners at home”. Further point; (again as Fauci will know) – the evidence which supports the lab leak theory does not depend on the genetic analysis of the virus; there are multiple pieces of circumstantial evidence (the Chinese cover-up, the fact that the supposed intermediary animal has not been found, the sheer coincidence of the geographic location of the start of the pandemic – a few Km from a lab carrying out research into precisely this type of virus, a lab which had already been reported as being insecure by US officials, hundreds of Km away from the place that the bats actually live, and much more). Finally – notice Fauci’s “card-carrying viral phylogeneticists and molecular virologists”. He has to say this because there are in fact many perfectly bona-fide viral phylogeneticists and/or molecular biologists who assert either that the virus shows signs of having been manipulated or that it cannot be said for certain that it hasn’t been (for the reason given above; there are invisible techniques).  Probably the specific use of the phrases “viral phylogeneticists and molecular virologists” is more ‘word salad’ – Paul’s characterisation of Fauci’s presentation – maybe he wants to exclude molecular biologists because there are plenty of them who confirm that there are virus manipulation techniques which do not leave a trace and who are open to the lab leak hypothesis. By using the phrase “card-carrying” Fauci is trying to say that those who disagree with this this view are somehow mavericks – out there, unreliable. Of course this is a circular argument since we can safely assume that any virologist who says that the virus could have been manipulated will be regarded by Fauci as not “card-carrying”. He is in fact resorting to abuse of academics and professionals who take an opposing view. In science you can’t simply dismiss qualified tenured scholars as being “not card-carrying” because they disagree with you. (His reliance specifically on molecular virologists as opposed to molecular biologists may reflect the fact that these people – virologists – have the most to lose in funding terms if virus manipulation work comes under public scrutiny so Fauci can rely on them to form a wall of silence).
Fauci is lying. Knowingly, and completely shamelessly. Presumably he is banking on the lab leak never being 100% established as true – and in this case he can simply get away with it.
Did Dr Fauci fund WIV in violation of his own agency’s protocols on gain-of-function research? The definition which is used by Dr Ebright of Rutgers University, who says he did, is that of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Under this definition the work funded at the WIV was gain-of-function. Fauci was required to submit applications to fund gain-of-function research to a review board. The research conducted at the WIV and funded by the NIAID was not sent to this review board for approval. Fauci has explained that this was because it did not meet the definition of “gain-of-function”. It seems that the definition used by his agency is narrower than that of other parts of the US Government i.e. the Department of Health and Human Services. (See Addendum 2 below). Fauci’s legal defence to being responsible for the pandemic is discernible by watching all the encounters between him and Senator Rand Paul.  It is: I cannot be held responsible for breaking the rules when I didn’t pass this research application to the review board because it did not meet the internal NIAID definition of gain-of-function. There is nothing in the published material (by WIV) that links the research we funded to Sars-Cov-2. We are of course only responsible for checking the published work. This is why the we have recently rebuked Eco Health Alliance for not reporting details of the gain-of-function WIV results, which we funded, in a timely fashion.  (Though it doesn’t explain why it took them so long to do it of course ). We have always had good results from Chinese grantees in the past. Therefore legally we can demonstrate due diligence. Therefore even if the virus came from the lab I have no legal responsibility. Meanwhile I will continue to try to shoot down the lab leak theory (by lying) because in this game it helps to have multiple walls of defence.
Rand Paul’s point of course is that if the virus came from the lab (in one way or another) Fauci has moral responsibility. He funded dangerous work in a known-to-be-unsafe lab, work which has singularly failed to bring any benefit; the justification for the research is it could help deal with Coronavirus epidemics and of course nothing has come from WIV which has helped with the current pandemic.  He has prevaricated and danced around the issue using careful wording to secure his own personal legal defence while the dead bodies pile up around him. The reason that Dr Fauci goes on about speaking for the benefit of the “listeners at home” is that he knows that he is not fooling Rand Paul. But he is still hoping to fool the American public. And, with the help of the much of the media, who are carefully looking away from this story, he is probably continuing to fool many.
Final note. For those interested in forensic psychology this could provide a useful case study. Look how Fauci repeatedly misspeaks and mixes up his words. Just one example; he seizes on what he thinks is an opportunity to discredit Paul by saying that Paul had said he stills funds the WIV – and Fauci thinks he can say he doesn’t. Fauci, with a certain theatrical flourish, says “I even wrote it down as you were writing”. He means of course “as you were speaking” but he’s muddling everything up. He is very nervous. Why is he so nervous? Because he is – and he knows it only too well – treading on the very very thin ice of his fragile legal defence; which could crack at any moment. Or, in other words, he is nervous because he is lying.
- This Vanity Fair articles goes into detail about the NIH’s backtracking around what exactly they funded in Wuhan. (It also supports the fact that there are many credible scientists with relevant expertise who are at least open to the possibility of a lab leak as the source of the pandemic). It also describes how an earlier Eco-Health alliance grant application specifically sought funding for work at WIV to insert a furin cleavage site into a coronavirus. The application was refused but we can speculate that perhaps they went ahead and did the work anyway (maybe getting funding from another source).
- It appears based on the first video above that Fauci does not define the research he was funding in Wuhan as being “gain-of-function” because he only applies that definition (now reinvented as “enhanced pathogens of pandemic potential or EPPP” or P3CO) to research which takes a virus which is already very significantly infectious to humans and which sets out to make it much more so. The work in WIV involved taking a coronavirus from bats and seeing under what circumstances it could become more infectious to humans . To define this as not gain-of-function or P3CO Fauci has to assert that bat coronaviruses are not already highly infectious to humans. True – but since they can so easily become so (Sars-Cov-1) it seems a pretty fragile position. It is at best a technical legal defence that he has not broken his own department’s protocols on funding this type of research – not an answer to legitimate political questions about responsibility for funding the research.
- https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/nih-cancels-funding-for-bat-coronavirus-research-project-67486 https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/nih-cancels-funding-for-bat-coronavirus-research-project-67486
- For example Richard Ebright Professor or Molecular Virology at Rutgers University. – See remarks quoted in  above. See also: https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/03/18/1021030/coronavirus-leak-wuhan-lab-scientists-conspiracy/ – This Sky news story is mainly about shooting down the lab leak theory but also states that “Sky News has spoken to four other scientists who believe that the lab theory should not be ruled out, though they did not say it was more likely than a natural explanation” – I’ve see this elsewhere in Sky – they mention “other scientists” but don’t give their names. This supports the view that there are professional pressures being exerted on scientists to keep quite about the possibility of a lab-leak. This article in Vanity Fair also mentions credible scientists such as microbiologist Dr David Relman of Stanford who are open to the lab leak possibility. See also this interview with Dr David Relman: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2021/05/david-relman-on-investigating-origin-of-coronavirus.html In the interview this Stanford microbiologist says “Absent that knowledge, it’s impossible to discern the origins of this virus from its genome sequence alone. ” – For Fauci presumably this means that Relman is not “card-carrying”?