Fauci denies seeking to suppress COVID-19 lab leak origin theory

Dr. Anthony Fauci, former Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Monday denied attempting to suppress the theory that the COVID-19 pandemic began as a result of a lab leak in Wuhan, China, during his opening statement before the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Fauci outlined before the committee how on Jan. 31, 2020, he “was informed through phone calls with Jeremy Farrar, then director of the Wellcome Trust in the UK, and then with Christian Anderson, a highly regarded scientist at Scripps Research Institute, that they and Eddie Holmes, a world class evolutionary biologist from Australia, were concerned that the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 suggested that the virus could have been manipulated in a lab.” The next day, Fauci said, he participated in a conference call “with about a dozen international virologists to discuss this possibility versus a spillover from an animal reservoir.”

“The accusation being circulated that I influenced these scientists to change their minds by bribing them with millions of dollars in grant money is absolutely false and simply preposterous. I had no input into the content of the published paper,” Fauci said in his prepared opening statement. “The second issue is a false accusation that I tried to cover up the possibility that the virus originated from a lab. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite.” 

Fauci described the conference call discussion as “lively with arguments for both possibilities” and said two participants have testified before the House subcommittee on the coronavirus that he “did not try to steer the discussion in any direction.” “It was decided that several participants would more carefully examine the genomic sequence after this further examination. Several who at first were concerned about lab manipulation became convinced that the virus was not deliberately manipulated. They concluded that the most likely scenario was the spillover from an animal reservoir, although they still kept an open mind,” Fauci said in his opening statement Monday. “They appropriately published their opinion in the peer reviewed literature.”

The Republican-led subcommittee has spent over a year probing the nation’s response to the pandemic and whether U.S.-funded research in China may have played any role in how it started. Democrats opened the hearing saying the investigation so far has found no evidence that Fauci did anything wrong while missing an important opportunity to prepare for the next scary outbreak.


Fauci spent 14 hours over two days in January being grilled by the House panel behind closed doors. 

On Monday, they’re questioning him again, in public and on camera for the first time since he ended more than five decades of government service.


This time around, he’ll face a new set of questions about the credibility of his former agency, the National Institutes of Health. Last month, the House panel revealed emails from an NIH colleague about ways to evade public records laws, including by not discussing controversial issues on government email.

Two theories have emerged about the origin of the pandemic. The first bolstered by the government was that the virus most likely emerged in nature and jumped from animals to people, probably at a wildlife market in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began. The second suggests the virus might instead have leaked from a laboratory. Fauci has long said publicly that he was open to both theories but that there’s more evidence supporting COVID-19’s natural origins, the way other deadly viruses including coronavirus cousins SARS and MERS jumped into people.

“I have repeatedly stated that I have a completely open mind to either possibility and that if definitive evidence becomes available to validate or refute either theory, I will ready accept it,” Fauci said in his opening statement for Monday’s hearing.

Republicans also have accused Fauci of lying to Congress when he denied in May 2022 that his agency funded “gain of function” research – the practicing of enhancing a virus in a lab to study its potential real-world impact – at a lab in Wuhan.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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