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Fauci refuses to budge when confronted about damning NIH letter seemingly admitting risky research funding
J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images

Fauci refuses to budge when confronted about damning NIH letter seemingly admitting risky research funding

Dr. Anthony Fauci refused to budge on his narrative Sunday when confronted about a new letter from the National Institutes of Health, which seemingly admitted the agency engaged in gain-of-function research at the infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology.

What is the background?

Throughout the pandemic — and in several notable exchanges with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — Fauci has denied the NIH funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan bio laboratory.

In one definitive instance, Fauci told Paul at a congressional hearing in May:

I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I'm fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China. However, I will repeat again, the NIH and NIAID categorically has not funded gain-of-function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

However a top NIH official — principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak — released a letter last week that seemingly admitting to funding risky gain-of-function research.

Vanity Fair underscored the significance of the NIH letter. "But the NIH letter—coming after months of congressional demands for more information—seemed to underscore that America's premier science institute has been less than forthcoming about risky research it has funded and failed to properly monitor. Instead of helping to lead a search for COVID-19's origins, with the pandemic now firmly in its 19th month, the NIH has circled the wagons, defending its grant system and scientific judgment against a rising tide of questions."

What is Fauci saying now?

During an interview on ABC's "This Week," Fauci refused to admit that he has been less than forthcoming about the NIH funding risky research.

In response to Paul taking a victory lap after the release of the NIH letter, Fauci said Paul is still wrong.

"Well, I obviously totally disagree with Sen. Paul. He's absolutely incorrect. Neither I nor Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the NIH, lied or misled about what we've done," Fauci said.

Fauci continued:

The framework under which we have guidance about the conduct of research that we fund, the funding at the Wuhan Institute was to be able to determine what is out there in the environment, in bat viruses in China. And the research was very strictly under what we call a framework of oversight of the type of research. And under those conditions which we have explained very, very clearly, does not constitute research of gain-of-function of concern.

When asked by host George Stephanopoulos whether the NIH letter proves what Vanity Fair explained — that the NIH engaged in riskier research than what agency officials have admitted — Fauci held his position.

"No, it isn't. We knew what the risk was, and what the oversight is," he said.

Fauci, in fact, said the real problem is that people don't know the definition of gain-of-function research.

"When people talk about gain-of-function, they make that implication which I think is unconscionable to do, to say, well, maybe that research led to SARS-CoV-2," Fauci said. "You can ask any person of good faith who's a virologist, and they will tell you, absolutely clearly, that that would be molecularly impossible."

"So, things are getting conflated, George, that should not be conflated," Fauci claimed.

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