Numerous media outlets have reported that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and most prominent face on President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, contradicted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's claim that there is "enormous evidence" that the coronavirus outbreak originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Fauci's full comments can be found in an interview with National Geographic.
Numerous liberal media outlets have claimed, with blaring headlines, that Fauci's comments contradict Pompeo's. For example:
- Business Insider: Fauci again dismisses conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was made in a Wuhan lab after Pompeo touted 'enormous evidence' of a cover-up
- Newsweek: Dr. Fauci dismisses Wuhan lab as source of coronavirus, contradicting Pompeo and Trump
- The Hill: Fauci dismisses 'circular argument' coronavirus originated in Chinese lab
- The Hill: "Fauci similarly dismissed theories the virus was naturally-occurring but had been accidentally released from a lab where it was being studied, setting off the pandemic."
- The New York Post: "He added that he doesn't believe 'an alternate theory — that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped.'"
Q: Sure, but what if scientists found the virus outside the lab, brought it back, and then it escaped?
A: But that means it was in the wild to begin with. That's why I don't get what they're talking about [and] why I don't spend a lot of time going in on this circular argument.
Fauci does not "dismiss" or "deny" this theory. Nowhere in this answer does he indicate that he does not believe it or has evidence to contradict it. What he does say is that it does not matter to him, as a scientist who is trying to figure out how to defeat the virus, whether the outbreak started in a wet market, as a result of faulty lab procedures, or anywhere else. So he doesn't think about it or consider it.
That is clearly not a denial, or a contradiction, or a statement that he does not believe the theory. It is a statement that the question is outside his purview, so he does not care.
Other people, of course, might very well care whether negligent containment procedures led to the outbreak of the coronavirus, and a full accounting of its origin might be important in shaping United States policy in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. But it is not surprising that Fauci, whose sole concern ought to be minimizing the public health impact of the pandemic, would not care.
A statement of indifference, however, is not a denial or dismissal of the theory, nor is it a statement that he does not believe it. For these reasons, the claim that Fauci contradicted Pompeo's claim is false.