Fauci does not rule out that COVID-19 was produced in a laboratory but assures that he has not hidden evidence

In his first public testimony since leaving his government position at the end of 2022, Dr. Anthony Fauci defended himself this Monday against various attacks from Republican legislators in a fiery appearance called to debate the lessons learned during the pandemic.

Fauci, who voluntarily appeared before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, denied a wide range of claims that have been made against him in recent years.

Several Republican members of the subcommittee asked Fauci about the funding virus research in China that came from the National Institutes of Health and that, according to them, he had approved. Some conspiracy theories suggest that such investigations led to the leak of the coronavirus from a laboratory. Fauci also responded to questions about whether his staff made efforts to hide the nature of that investigation from the public.

In his opening statement, Fauci stated that it was possible that the virus had leaked from a laboratory. He said that since the origins of the pandemic remain unknown, he personally is keeping an open mind. But he denied having withheld relevant information about a possible leak.

“I don't think the concept of there being a lab leak is inherently a conspiracy theory,” Fauci said. “What is a conspiracy are the distortions of that particular topic, as if it were a laboratory leak and I would have parachuted into the CIA, like Jason Bourne (a character in a popular film) and told the CIA that they really shouldn't talk about a lab leak. That's the conspiracy.”

The subcommittee did not present any evidence linking Fauci to the origins of the coronavirus.

Fauci has become one of the people most vilified by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Many blame him for the pandemic based on a wide range of false or misleading claims. Calls to prosecute Fauci for unspecified crimes have become common on the right.

In his testimony Monday, Fauci explained that he participated in a call in early 2020 with about a dozen scientists in which they discussed the emergence of the virus and the possibility that it could have originated in a laboratory. Fauci explained that, after further investigation, members of that group concluded that The virus was most likely passed from animals to humans..

“The accusation being circulated that I influenced the scientists to change their minds by bribing them with millions of dollars in grant money is absolutely false and simply preposterous,” he said.

“The accusation circulating that I influenced scientists to change their minds by bribing them with millions of dollars in grants is absolutely false and simply absurd,” he said.

Fauci testified on the same issues before the same subcommittee in a closed-door hearing in January.

Before retiring, Fauci also testified many times before Congress about his leadership during the pandemic. He directed the National Institute of Ias and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) from 1984 to 2022, and served on then-President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force as well as President Joe Biden's COVID-19 response team. Biden.

During Monday's hearing, Democrats defended Fauci as a stalwart public servant and accused Republicans of needlessly vilifying him.

“Some of our colleagues in the United States House of Representatives seem to want to drag his name through the mud. “They are treating you, Dr. Fauci, like a convicted felon,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

But in a moment of tension that caused the consternation of several of her House colleagues, Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia stated that Fauci He should have been in jail and did not deserve to have a medical license. He added that Fauci's medical guidance led to children being “gagged” with masks in schools, and – in a bizarre assertion – accused him of approving experiments involving the torture of beagle dogs.

Upon leaving the hearing, Greene doubled down on her comments to NBC News.

“Fauci should be in jail. He should be tried for mass murder and crimes against humanity. “This is how I feel after this hearing,” he declared.

Several Democrats apologized to Fauci for the insult.

“This may be the craziest hearing I've ever been to,” declared Rep. Robert Garcia of California. “I have only been in Congress for a year and a half, but I am very sorry that you are subjected to that level of attacks and madness.”

The Republican-led House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic has been investigating the origins of the coronavirus for months, focusing primarily on the possibility of a lab leak, as well as mask requirements and vaccines.

Much of Monday's hearing focused on EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit research group that received funding from the U.S. government for pandemic prevention work. In May, the Department of Health and Human Services suspended funding to the organization after concluding that it had not adequately supervised research in which it was participating at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, and had not delivered requested materials or supplies on time. progress reports.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, chairman of the House subcommittee, said Monday that Fauci's direction allowed EcoHealth Alliance Chairman Peter Daszak to use millions of taxpayer dollars to conduct risky experiments in Wuhan that They involved the modification of a coronavirus.

Subcommittee members have alleged that EcoHealth Alliance facilitated so-called gain-of-function research, which involves improving a virus to make it more transmissible. But EcoHealth Alliance has stated that its work does not fit the definition of this type of research.

Republicans also questioned Fauci's relationship with one of his former aides, David Morens, who used personal email accounts to correspond with Daszak, a friend of his. Subcommittee members said some of Morens' emails offer evidence that tried to circumvent public records laws.

Fauci explained that Morens had violated NIAID policy and that “from what we know now,” it appears that Morens' communication with Daszak amounted to a conflict of interest.

However, Fauci added that he never made official arrangements using his own personal email.

He also stressed that no virus studied with funding from the National Institutes of Health could have evolved into SARS-CoV-2.

Fauci has been the central focus of extreme conspiracy theories that have circulated online since the beginning of the pandemic, explained Cameron Hickey, CEO of the National Conference on Citizenship, a nonprofit organization focused on strengthening American democracy.

“Anti-vaccine activists see Anthony Fauci as the ringleader in the effort to spreading lies about the origins of the pandemicas a profiteer who is making money from the vaccine, and as a power-hungry part of the 'swamp' that perpetuated unnecessary public health regulations such as masking, isolation and social distancing,” Hickey said in an email.

Fauci declared this Monday that he and his family continue to be harassed.

“There have been credible death threats, which have led to the arrest of two people; and by credible death threats we mean someone who was clearly going to kill me. And that has required him to have protective services essentially all the time. It's very problematic for me. It is much more problematic because they have involved my wife and my three daughters,” said Fauci, his voice breaking.