Chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has long faced Republican criticism for perceived contradictions in his advice during the COVID-19 pandemic — including his shifting stance on the possibility that the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
In a letter this week, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) pointed out Fauci’s “evolving opinion” on the topic and demanded answers to some pertinent questions, Breitbart reported.
“Artificially or deliberately manipulated”
The debate over the origins of COVID-19 dates back to the earliest days of its worldwide spread, with most experts believing it was transmitted to humans by an animal. Some skeptics, however, argued that it could have been leaked by the Wuhan lab.
A combination of new evidence and the Chinese government’s obfuscation has led to a recent shift in the opinion of many on the left and in the mainstream media, however. Given the amount of credence Fauci has been granted throughout the pandemic, his stance on the issue is especially relevant.
Johnson’s letter cut to the chase, first pointing to an interview Fauci gave to National Geographic about a year ago in which he seemingly dismissed the possibility that COVID-19 had been accidentally released by the state-run Wuhan Institute of Virology.
At the time, he referenced “the evolution of the virus in bats” as evidence suggesting that the virus “could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated” by scientists in the lab.
Earlier this month, however, he was asked a related question and offered a notably different response.
“Rejecting a potential laboratory origin”
Fauci said he was “not convinced” that the virus spread naturally, adding: “I think that we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out to the best of our ability exactly what happened. Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals but it could have been something else.”
He subsequently told a CBS News reported that his position has not changed and he continued to believe it was “highly likely” that the virus developed naturally in animals before it spread to humans. Nevertheless, he said he is open to a “thorough investigation” of COVID-19’s origins.
For his part, Johnson described the “ambiguity” of Fauci’s “recent statements about the virus’ origins” as cause for alarm.
“Further, your high level of confidence in rejecting a potential laboratory origin in May 2020 is perplexing, given that public reports highlighted safety concerns at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” the senator continued, according to Breitbart.
Whether Fauci was aware of those safety concerns or not, Johnson described the situation as “troubling,” particularly in light of new questions about U.S. taxpayer money funding research at the Chinese lab.