If Anthony S. Fauci hasn’t been lawyering up already to defend himself against charges that he lied to Congress in denying that he U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), for which he’s worked for so long, ever funded dangerous gain-of-function (GOF) research in a Chinese virology lab, he definitely should be now.
For unless he’s gotten a God complex from all the CCP Virus era adulation he’s received, and assumes he’ll never be held accountable for his actions by mere mortals’ systems of government, Fauci – who also serves as President Biden’s chief medical advisor – must recognize that the NIH just made clearer than ever to lawmakers not only that statements of his earlier this year to Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky were false, but that he knew at the time they were false.
As a post of mine on July 22 explained, although Fauci made his denials twice this year in response to questions from Paul, facts that were undoubtedly at Fauci’s disposal stated otherwise. Principally, the public record shows that at least three research grants approved by the NIH branch headed by Fauci (the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – NIAID) sponsored research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that plainly fell under the U.S. government’s official definition of gain-of-function – which is the only definition that Fauci, a federal employee, should care about in connection with his official work.
More important, from a legal standpoint, in an article detailing its findings, one team of recipients explicitly described its work at “GOF.” Similarly, in a February, 2020 email exchange, both Fauci and a senior colleague showed that they were well aware that of this research. The concern stemming from the grant that they discussed was not whether this description was correct or not, but whether or not this research took place when it was still permitted by federal regulations.
That’s obviously important, but as I noted, it has nothing to do with the lying to Congress charge. For that’s not what Paul asked. He asked whether NIH had ever paid for such work in China at any time. And even more important, Fauci was surely aware both of these emails’ contents, and of the original grant. OK – it’s conceivable that he had forgotten all of this when first questioned by Paul. But it’s inconceivable that by the second appearances (at which he was given the chance to walk back his denial), he hadn’t done his homework.
It was against this background of legitimately indisputable facts that the NIH finally issued a statement that seeks to clear the air about its connection with the Wuhan lab. The statement, which came in the form of an October 20 letter from NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak to Kentucky Republican Congressman James Comer, doesn’t explicitly comment on Fauci’s statements. But although it does insinuate that no one at NIH is to blame for any Wuhan-related confusion on the part of Members of Congress, it keeps him in hot water nonetheless.
For not only does it leave those indisputable facts completely undisputed. It makes two relevant claims that quickly dissolve under even casual scrutiny.
The first centers on Tabak’s allegation that the contractor in question, the New York City-based EcoHealth Alliance, violated the terms of its grant by failing to notify anyone at NIH that some of the experiments it helped conduct in Wuhan created an engineered version of a bat coronavirus that infected human cells ten times faster than the natually occuring version of that virus. According to Tabak, “EcoHealth failed to report this fining right away, as was required by the terms of the grant.”
That’s on EcoHealth, of course. But if it was concealing information from NIH, then doesn’t that mean that Fauci’s denials to Paul, however inaccurate, simply stemmed from ignorance and not a desire to mislead? Unfortunately for Fauci, no. Because as NIH recently told The New York Times, EcoHealth didn’t simply fail to report these results “right away.” The organization was two years late. And since this revelation came only this past August, Fauci must have known of its tardiness this past May and July, when he expressed his flat denials to Paul. In other words, Fauci knew he lacked all the facts needed to support his statements. But he made them anyway. And the difference between such statements and a deliberate falsehood is what, exactly?
Tabak’s second Fauci-relevant claim is even more easily dispensed with. It raises the question of defining gain-of-function research once again, and emphasizes that EcoHealth’s work “did not fit the definition of research involving enhanced pathogens of pandemic potential” – and therefore wasn’t prohibited under the prevailing regulations governing GOF research – because the bat coronaviruses being used “had not been shown to affect humans.”
Yet this argument still leaves Fauci with several big problems. First, as I wrote above, recipients for one of the NIH grants for Wuhan work stated explicitly that they were engaged in GOF research. Their results were published in November, 2015 – which means that at least part of the research was performed after October, 2014, when the Obama administration ordered a three-year pause in such work.
Plainly this evidence flatly contradicts Fauci’s insistence that NIH-funded GOF research took place in Wuhan. So does a comparison of the grantees’ description of their project and the Obama administration’s definition of the kind of work that was not to be supported:
“[R]esearch projects that may be reasonably anticipated to confer attributes to influenza, MERS, or SARS viruses such that the virus would have enhanced pathogenicity and/or transmissibility in mammals via the respiratory route.”
Moreover, “The research funding pause would not apply to characterization or testing of naturally occurring influenza, MERS, and SARS viruses, unless the tests are reasonably anticipated to increase transmissibility and/or pathogenicity.”
The pause was lifted at the end of 2017, and replaced with a review process that would allow funding gain-of-function research under certain conditions. As you can see, there are lots of them. Indeed, there are so many that Fauci (who was doubtless involved in the drafting) could be forgiven strictly speaking if he concluded that he’d gotten pretty close to a green light for resuming NIH funding for all manner of GOF work.
But it’s crucial to remember that Paul never asked Fauci whether NIH had ever funded GOF research in China that was legal at the time. He asked him whether NIH had ever funded GOF research in China – period. And nothing in the post-pause GOF funding guidelines changed the 2014 official definition of GOF – the definition that was controlling for Fauci and other federal employees. All the new guidelines did was stipulate when GOF research anywhere could be legally funded.
Nor did Tabak’s letter do anything to help Fauci on this score. Although he’s correct in noting that the new guidelines don’t proscribe research with pathogens with no record of infecting humans, this qualification is contained nowhere in the still-operative official U.S. government definition of GOF – which covers enhanced infectiousness and transmissibility in all mammals.
There’s a third claim made by Tabak that actually doesn’t directly bear on Fauci’s guilt or innocence, but very nicely illustrates why the NIH deserves absolutely zero credibility on CCP Virus origins issues. That’s the claim that EcoHealth didn’t mislead anyone, either, however late it was in keeping the agency informed. That’s because the organization supposedly didn’t expect the results it got.
As Tabak wrote (though, as with the rest of his letter, he oddly he didn’t specifically link this point to th e Fauc-lied controversy), “As sometimes occurs in science, [the much greater infectivity etc of the engineered viruses] was an unexpected result of the research, as opposed to something that the researchers set out to do.”
Yet it’s obvious that the researchers – and the NIH itself – expected that they might display some enhanced capability. Why else would the agency have instructed EcoHealth to “report immediately” a ten-fold-or greater increase in its infectiousness – or any increase in its infectivity?
Tabak also apparently left on the table another suggestion that EcoHealth and NIH (and by extension Fauci) should be let off the hook on substantive grounds (in terms of conducting and supporting gain-of-function research) in addition to NIH (and by extension Fauci) should be let off procedurally (because of EcoHealth’s failure to report its results promptly: It’s the suggestion that because the gain-of-function results were unexpected, that the relevant experiments weren’t about gain-of-function in the first place.
What, however, could be more absurd? For example, scientists began trying to develop a polio vaccine in the 1930s. They didn’t succeed until 1953. Can anyone seriously believe that the failed efforts don’t qualify as polio vaccine research? Ditto for the long string of failures to develop an AIDS vaccine. Or a U.S. rocket that could lift a satellite into space. Or the story of practically every scientific discovery or progress in engineering, or for that matter in the social sciences.
It’s true that Fauci could have easily and truthfully answered Paul’s questions with a statement along the lines of the following in speaking about the post-gain-of-function pause experiments: “At the time of this work, government guidelines permitted NIH to support GOF research in China and everywhere else if its review process determined that such work was justified, and that determination was in fact made.”
That’s not, however, what he said – evidently because his top priority wasn’t factual accuracy, but ensuring that neither he nor NIH could be tainted by association with supporting potentially dangerous research in China – which would have further exposed he and NIH to charges of dreadful judgment (considering their lax attitude toward reporting deadlines and the underlying decision to work with a foreign regime with a long history of keeping secrets and spreading information.
More important from the Fauci-lied standpoint, though, is that there’s no way he could have answered the questions about the pre-pause research truthfully without admitting that NIH had indeed funded some GOF work at the Wuhan lab.
And there’s a final point that needs to be mentioned: Is the Tabak letter the best that NIH can do to exculpate Fauci of the lying charges and all concerned of allegations of whopping misjudgement? If so, I’m doubly convinced that Fauci specifically should be seeking legal aid. If you’re still a fan, feel free to send your suggestions to:
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
5601 Fishers Lanes, MSC 9806
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-9806