Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) criticized the mainstream media for failing to ask tough questions of Dr. Anthony Fauci days after the two men accused each other of lying during a confrontational exchange at a Senate hearing.
"No one's forced him to explain himself. He hurls ad hominem insults, but he doesn't really explain," Paul said of Fauci during an interview Thursday with BlazeTV host Glenn Beck. "People need to realize that he's not a disinterested party. He has a conflict of interest. His interest is not being associated with gain-of-function any longer, not being associated with Wuhan lab. And most particularly, he doesn't want to attach to himself any responsibility to the pandemic."
On Tuesday, Paul challenged Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, a sub-agency of the National Institute of Health, on whether the NIH funded risky coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The research, known as gain-of-function, involves manipulating viruses to artificially make them more transmissible among humans in an attempt to study how viruses might evolve in nature and predict and prevent future pandemics.
A nonprofit organization called EcoHealth Alliance provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in NIH grants approved by Fauci for the coronavirus research at the Wuhan lab. Paul contended that a 2015 paper published by Dr. Ralph Baric, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, in collaboration with Dr. Shi Zhengli, the chief coronavirus researcher at the Wuhan lab, demonstrates that gain-of-function research was performed at the lab.
But Fauci denied that the research is gain-of-function and claimed experts at NIH reviewed Baric and Shi's work and determined it did not meet the definition of gain-of-function research. When Paul insisted that Fauci's claims didn't make sense, Fauci accused him of not knowing what he was talking about.
Whether gain-of-function research was conducted at the Wuhan lab is relevant to discovering the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There are two competing theories on where the COVID-19 pandemic began, the first and more widely accepted one being that the virus came from an animal and naturally evolved to be transmissible among humans.
The second hypothesis, one Fauci and other prominent public health officials have worked to discredit, is that the virus was artificially created through gain-of-function research in the Wuhan lab and somehow leaked.
Paul asserts that if Fauci previously approved NIH funding for such research at the Wuhan lab, he would have a conflict of interest because if it's true the pandemic started there, he and others involved would ultimately be responsible for that dangerous research.
"We're saying one very simple precise thing: That the NIH, with Dr. Fauci's approval, funded the lab in Wuhan, and the lab was doing dangerous gain-of-function research," Paul told Beck.
When Paul said as much during Tuesday's Senate hearing, accusing Fauci of previously lying to Congress about funding for gain-of-function research in Wuhan, the NIAID director became incensed and accused the senator of propagating a lie. On Wednesday, during an interview with MSNBC, Fauci further said that Paul had "made some inflammatory and, I believe, slanderous remarks about lying under oath."
Many journalists and news reports on the testy back-and-forth appear to be taking Fauci's side over Paul's. Beck pointed out, for example, that CNN's Jake Tapper said, "I'm not even going to get into the details of what Senator Paul was attacking there" while discussing "the constant MAGA media and Republican lawmaker attacks on health experts, especially Dr. Anthony Fauci."
Paul criticized CNN for neglecting to ask questions he says American taxpayers deserve the answers to.
"Four million people died. CNN has been trying to make money off this pandemic for two years. Yet, they didn't want to go to the heart of the matter. Did it start in a lab? And did it start from gain-of-function research? Is it dangerous research? Should we continue doing this research?" Paul said, adding that these questions and other concerns about taxpayer funding for dangerous virus research shouldn't be partisan issues.
He observed that Fauci argued in a 2012 paper that the benefits of gain-of-function research were worth the risks of a lab accident that could potentially cause a pandemic.
"These are judgment calls that should preclude him from being in any position of judgment," Paul said. "Gain-of-function research is not worth 4 million lives."