Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn joined the growing chorus of Capitol Hill lawmakers last week demanding National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci be fired.
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) June 6, 2021
The call came on the heels of more than 3,200 pages of emails made public by a BuzzFeed Freedom of Information Act request, which exposed “America’s Doctor” as a political animal who spent 18 months rising to fame as the nation’s preeminent voice on coronavirus to cover his own plausible role in the viral outbreak.
Emails show Fauci dismissed early evidence that COVID-19 came from a Wuhan lab with taxpayer funding sponsored by his own NIAID, disregarded early indications that the virus was beyond containment, and contradicted his explanation for discouraging masks early on as merely concerned about their supply for health care workers. In the pandemic’s first days, Fauci, according to the emails, was the original anti-masker.
But for Blackburn, it was the emails’ reveal of Fauci’s collusion “in cahoots” with Silicon Valley tech giant Facebook that was the last straw.
“Dr. Fauci was first of all interested in protecting himself and his reputation,” Blackburn told The Federalist in an exclusive Wednesday morning interview, complaining that Fauci had engaged in a politicized “PR campaign” in pursuit of his own self-interest as opposed to clear, concise, and consistent messaging as a credible public health expert.
In an email dated March 15 of last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg directly reached out to Fauci about participating in building the platform’s hub for virus-related news, an opportunity Fauci appeared excited to entertain in an effort to grow his own media-manufactured monopoly on coronavirus information.
“This isn’t public yet, but we’re building a Coronavirus Information Hub that we’re going to put at the top of Facebook for everyone (200+ million Americans, 2.5 billion people worldwide) with two goals: (1) make sure people can get authoritative information from reliable sources and (2) encourage people to practice social distance and give people ideas for doing this using internet tools,” wrote Zuckerberg. “This will be live within the next 48 hours.”
The Facebook executive continued: “As a central part of this hub, I think it would be useful to include a video from you because people trust and want to hear from experts rather than just a bunch of agencies and political leaders.”
Another offer remains redacted, but Fauci was elated to oblige.
“Your idea and proposal sound terrific. I would be happy to do a video for your hub,” Fauci wrote back. “We need to reach as many people as possible and convince them to take mitigation strategies seriously or things will get much, much worse. Also, your idea about [REDACTED] is very exciting.”
Less than a year later, Zuckerberg reiterated Facebook’s commitment to promoting authoritative information to its users. In February, Facebook announced an “update” in its effort to combat “misinformation” in which the platform would remove posts claiming “COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured.” The policy remained in place for months, until it was finally rescinded last week once the lab-leak theory was given new life among legacy outlets. The tech giant also began to censor emails published from Fauci’s server that documented the doctor’s initial opposition to face masks early in the pandemic.
Rebirth of the lab-leak theory’s plausibility, after Fauci and allies in progressive media dismissed it for months as a fringe conspiracy, came in large part due to a May report in the Wall Street Journal. The blockbuster story highlighted three researchers at the Wuhan lab who sought hospital care for COVID-like symptoms in the weeks before the first outbreak in the same area of the Hubei Province.
Other reporting in May that picked up traction raised questions about Fauci’s personal role in the pandemic’s creation as a proponent of “gain of function” research, wherein scientists extract viruses from the wild and engineer them to infect humans in order to study potential therapeutics including vaccines. Fauci defended the high-risk research, which was temporarily banned by the United States between 2014 and 2017, as worth risking a pandemic over in a 2012 paper.
“In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?” Fauci wrote in a paper reported on by The Australian last month. “Scientists working in this field might say — as indeed I have said — that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.”
Such research was being conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which the U.S. State Department has publicly said collaborated with the Chinese military. The lab was also operating with a five-year $600,000 annual grant from 2014-2019 by the National Institutes of Health through the Fauci-directed NIAID to study bat coronaviruses that could infect humans. While Fauci has acknowledged the agency’s funding to the lab, the NIAID director had vehemently denied that the money was going toward gain of function research — which is in a peculiar denial given the U.S. moratorium’s language, which defined gain of function as “any research that improves the ability of a pathogen to cause disease.” Fauci later admitted there was “no way of guaranteeing” how the taxpayer-funded grant money was used.
Blackburn stressed that regardless of what was studied, “We should never have been involved in funding research at a lab that is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”
“How did our tax dollars end up funding this research?” Blackburn said, demanding Fauci at least step aside from his duties at the top of NIAID to allow a congressional investigation to move forward.
Whether Congress will establish a commission to investigate the plausible origins of the coronavirus as a product of the Wuhan lab remains uncertain. President Joe Biden has requested a 90-day intelligence review to probe the possibility, but some on Capitol Hill, including Blackburn, are demanding a congressional investigation to coincide with the administration’s effort.
Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, one of the most vocal members of Congress to raise concern over the virus as a product of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told Federalist Publisher Ben Domenech on Monday he remains worried that efforts for a genuine probe could be impeded by the Democratic Party’s fear of Chinese confrontation.
“I’m sensing that we’re going to hit this big roadblock which is the concern within a wing of the Biden administration and on the left about provoking the Chinese Communist Party,” Gallagher explained, “whether it’s because they want to get a big deal on climate change or whether it’s because all of their donors on Wall Street are making tons of money off China. … I don’t fully understand it, but that’s what could prevent this from moving forward.”
Blackburn wouldn’t say whether she shared Gallagher’s exact concerns but said, “We’re always worried about things not being pushed through to completion.”
In the meantime, she said, Fauci should not be leading the NIAID.