House Oversight Committee Republicans released emails showing American public health officials – including National Institutes of Health leaders Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins – downplaying COVID-19 potentially having a lab origin despite internal conference calls concluding the theory was viable.
Following the release of the emails, the group requested a “transcribed interview” with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci in a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra.
“Excerpts of emails we are making public today reveal that Dr. Fauci was warned of two things: (1) the potential that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute Virology (WIV) and (2) the possibility that the virus was intentionally genetically manipulated,” notes the letter signed by Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer and Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Jim Jordan.
Emails included in the letter relate to a conference call from February 1st, 2020, where Fauci and a dozen other scientists discussed the origins of COVID-19. “It was on this conference call that Drs. Fauci and Collins were first warned that COVID-19 may have leaked from the WIV and, further, may have been intentionally genetically manipulated,” summarizes the report.
“He is bothered by the furin site and has a hard time explain[ing] that as an event outside the lab (though, there are possible ways in nature, but highly unlikely),” wrote one call participant in a summary of the discussion.
A separate call participant wrote in his notes that he “really can’t think of a plausible natural scenario” in reference to COVID-19:
“I really can’t think of a plausible natural scenario where you get from the bat virus or one very similar to it to nCoV where you insert exactly 4 amino acids 12 nucleotide that all have to be added at the exact same time to gain this function — that and you don’t change any other amino acid in S2? I just can’t figure out how this gets accomplished in nature. Do the alignment of the spikes at the amino acid level — its stunning. Of course, in the lab it would be easy to generate the perfect 12 base insert that you wanted.”
“Only three days later, on February 4, 2020, four participants of the conference call authored a paper entitled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2” and sent a draft to Drs. Fauci and Collins. Prior to final publication in Nature Medicine, the paper was sent to Dr. Fauci for editing and approval. It is unclear what, if any, new evidence was presented or if the underlying science changed in that short period of time, but after speaking with Drs. Fauci and Collins, the authors abandoned their belief COVID-19 was the result of a laboratory leak. It is also unclear if Drs. Fauci or Collins edited the paper prior to publication,” explains the report.
Months later, former National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins emailed Fauci concerned that the Nature Medicine article did not sufficiently squash the “lab leak” hypothesis. He also inquired if the NIH could do more to “put down” the theory, which counts support from many top scientists including former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield.
“The next day—after Dr. Collins explicitly asked for more public pressure—Dr. Fauci cited the Nature Medicine paper from the White House podium likely in an effort to further stifle the hypothesis COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” adds the report.