Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who famously claimed to “represent science,” has a monumentally bad memory.
In recent and lengthy testimony to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic behind closed doors, Fauci claimed that he “did not recall” over 100 times. In his deposition Nov. 23, 2022, in the federal case of Missouri v. Biden, Fauci’s recollection failed him 174 times.
The good doctor is presenting an impressive case of recurrent amnesia.
Nonetheless, following two days and 14 hours of a wide-ranging interrogation over Jan. 8 and 9 examining the federal government’s flawed response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fauci confirmed three vitally important points for the record.
1. The view that the deadly pandemic originated in a leak from a Chinese research lab no longer is a “conspiracy” theory.
In his closed-door testimony to the House select subcommittee, Fauci affirmed the hypothesis that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese laboratory—a view shared by analysts of the FBI and the Department of Energy—was not a “conspiracy” theory.
Note well: Four years ago, Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins, then Fauci’s boss as director of the National Institutes of Health, were diligently discrediting the legitimacy of the origins of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in a lab leak. At the same time, they were “prompting” top virologists to publish a prominent paper in the journal Nature Medicine affirming zoonotic origins and rejecting the notion of laboratory origins.
In February 2020, most of these virologists tapped by Fauci initially assessed the deadly coronavirus to have a decidedly unnatural origin. But in a matter of days, and without even the possibility of accessing hard Chinese data, they rapidly reversed themselves.
In March 2020, Collins declared the virologists’ paper dispositive. Case closed. The media narrative gelled into rock-hard conviction.
Well, no. Collins, too, has now reversed himself.
Under questioning from the House select subcommittee, Collins conceded that the lab leak hypothesis is not a “conspiracy theory.”
2. Oversight by Fauci’s agency of grants to taxpayer-funded laboratories overseas is poor.
Fauci said he signed off on every foreign grant as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, but didn’t personally review the proposals.
As Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, chairman of the select subcommittee, observed of Fauci:
While leading the nation’s COVID-19 response and influencing public narratives, he simultaneously had no idea what was happening under his own jurisdiction at NIAID. Dr. Fauci signed off on all domestic and foreign research grants without reviewing the proposals and admitted that he was unaware if NIAID conducted oversight of the laboratories they fund. Clearly, the American people and the United States government are operating with completely different expectations about the responsibilities of our public health leaders and the accountability of our public health agencies.
In fact, Fauci’s recent testimony reconfirms what he stated in his Nov. 23, 2022, deposition in the case of Missouri v. Biden. He was questioned about his agency’s 2014 grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a controversial nonprofit that subcontracted coronavirus research to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“I do not individually approve grants,” Fauci responded. “They go through multiple levels of peer review, so I would not have, by the standard way things work, have seen this, read it, or individually approved it. That’s not the way things work in this institute.”
Fauci later told Missouri’s attorneys that he didn’t become aware of the EcoHealth Alliance project until “after all the attention was put on it, following the early part of January, February, mid-March 2020.”
In short, at the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic.
3. America’s top public health officials, including Fauci, didn’t “follow the science.”
Beyond issues related to the origins of the pandemic, the House select subcommittee questioned Fauci on several other topics related to the federal government’s response to COVID-19.
For example, in response to questioning, Fauci said that the COVID-19 vaccine mandates could increase future “vaccine hesitancy”—a legitimate public health concern, given the potential of backlash against coercion.
Recall that before the Biden administration announced its program of vaccine mandates, Fauci initially expressed his skepticism of such mandates, saying that the United States had never done such a thing to the general population.
Nonetheless, Fauci told the House subcommittee that he advised universities to impose vaccine mandates on their students—a young and healthy cohort of the population that, based on indisputable data, was relatively invulnerable to serious disease, hospitalization, or death from COVID-19.
Curiously, Fauci also told the subcommittee that the social distancing recommendation—that persons should stay “6 feet apart” to avoid infection—was not based on any scientific data, but “sort of just appeared.” In later, separate testimony, Collins confirmed Fauci’s assessment, and agreed that the social distancing rule wasn’t grounded in data.
The key unresolved issue is the extent to which, if any, federal taxpayers’ money was funneled into Chinese gain-of- function coronavirus research, or lab efforts to enhance the power of the pathogen.
Fauci reiterated his position, stated in previous Senate testimony, that his agency didn’t fund such research. Collins also restated that position.
For the record, the subcommittee’s chairman, Wenstrup, wasn’t buying it.
“He repeatedly played semantics with the definition of ‘gain of function’ in an attempt to avoid conceding that NIH funded potentially dangerous research in China,” Wenstrup said of Fauci.
Reflecting on Fauci’s closed-door testimony, Wenstrup also said:
Dr. Fauci’s transcribed interview revealed systemic failures in our public health system and shed light on serious procedural concerns with our public health authority. It is clear that dissenting opinions were often not considered or suppressed completely. Should a future pandemic arise, America’s response must be guided by scientific facts and conclusive data.
During sensitive congressional investigations, the sworn testimony of witnesses in a closed-door session isn’t uncommon; it provides for an extensive preliminary inquiry before a public hearing. Testifying under oath in a public hearing may yet stimulate Fauci’s powers of greater recollection.
Expressing appreciation for Fauci’s willingness to testify privately and anticipating his future public appearance, Wenstrup offered this encouragement: “There are many opportunities to do better in the future.”
If the country is to learn from this experience, it’s critical that any top official responding to the deadliest national medical emergency this country has faced since the 1918 flu should do a better job recalling key actions. We cannot wait.
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