Former National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins reportedly laughed off forcing people to get vaccinations under the threat of job loss and disparaged former President Trump for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in a private event at the University of Chicago late last year, according to leaked audio obtained by the Daily Wire.
Collins, also a newly appointed science adviser to President Biden as of Feb. 17, has in the past maintained that he and his subordinate, Dr. Anthony Fauci, are "not political figures." But according to the Daily Wire, in the Oct. 26 speaking event, Collins put that claim in question, as he strayed far away from medical discussion to offer his opinion on a series of political topics.
The event was hosted by the director of public theology at Christianity Today, Russell Moore — reportedly a friend of Collins' — and put on by the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, founded and led by senior adviser to former President Obama David Axelrod.
What did he say?
"The U.S. government does have the authority to mandate vaccinations if there is an outbreak that is threatening people, because it’s not just about you, it’s about the people you’re going to infect," Collins claimed at one point in the discussion.
"Do [mandates] convince people who otherwise wouldn’t get them?” he then asked rhetorically, before answering, "Oh yeah, especially if it means losing your job."
The former NIH director then recalled how such a threat at the institute garnered a "big response," adding that even the "pretty darn resistant" decided to get vaccinated in the face of "being fired."
He reportedly chuckled while asserting, "You get the feeling that their resistance was not maybe quite that deeply seated" as he speculated that many vaccine-resistant individuals choose not to get the shot over peer pressure.
"They’re sort of thinking to themselves, you know, maybe I really should do it, but if I do, I lose my credibility with my peeps," Collins said.
Moore reportedly recounted during the event that he invited Collins to explain efforts they have made "separately and together to deal with evangelical resistance to the vaccine with COVID and some of the controversies we’ve had over masking and government mandates."
Both remarked at one point that they were enjoying the chance to speak freely since the event was not being formally recorded, the Daily Wire noted.
Elsewhere in the conversation, Collins blamed Trump while sparing himself and President Biden for the dramatic loss of life that has occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Collins also criticized Trump for shifting blame to him and Fauci, consequently damaging their reputations. Yet the public health expert failed to take responsibility for his and Fauci's mismanagement of the pandemic through widespread lockdowns and silencing of any opposing viewpoints — not to mention his past support of controversial gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
"Great harm was done to the people in this nation by a very, very self-involved and misguided president in the previous administration. Hundreds of thousands of people have died who should not have had to do so," Collins said, adding, "And so there was an effort to try to distract from that dreadful circumstance by finding somebody else to blame.”
Collins, a confessing Christian, also defended his support of NIH-funded experiments that involved harvesting body parts from full-term babies and grafting infant scalps onto lab rats. The health expert reportedly did not say whether or not he opposes abortion, only that he is "troubled" by it, and added that fetal tissue can be very valuable for scientific research.
"Fetal tissue is being discarded in large quantities every day. If there were a circumstance where, with consent of the mother, having been obtained after the abortion, not in any way as an inspiration to carry it forward, the abortion could ultimately help somebody. Which of those two choices is more ethical — discard all the tissue or use a small part?" he asked.
"Can you, in fact, in some circumstances, even with actions that you consider immoral, derive something from it that might actually be moral and beneficial? That’s the horns of the dilemma upon which I have been resting here for these 12 years as NIH director, trying to oversee human fetal tissue research, which is something that I have to make decisions about," he continued.
Neither Collins nor Moore returned the Daily Wire's requests for comment regarding the interview and its subject matter.