Dr. Anthony Fauci and then-National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins reportedly pressured a group of scientists to abandon a paper they were authoring on the origins of COVID-19 and the possibility that COVID-19 was “genetically manipulated” and could have leaked from the Wuhan Insitute of Virology (WIV).
“Neither Drs. Fauci or Collins edited our Proximal Origins paper in any way. The major feedback we got from the Feb 1 teleconference was: 1. Don’t try to write a paper at all — it’s unnecessary or 2. If you do write it don’t mention a lab origin as that will just add fuel to the conspiracists,” virologist Robert Garry wrote on Wednesday, according to The Intercept.
Garry was one of the 11 scientists who were present on the now-infamous Feb. 1, 2020, call with Fauci and Collins about the origins of COVID-19. After the call, a group of those experts quickly penned a paper detailing what they believed to be the origins of the virus, but, as GOP members noted in a recent letter, the federal health bureaucrats criticized the scientists, who eventually “abandoned their belief COVID-19 was the result of a laboratory leak.”
The news comes just a couple of days after high-ranking members of the GOP demanded that Fauci answer for newly released emails that suggest he warned fellow health bureaucrats that COVID-19 could have leaked from the Wuhan lab and that it might have been “intentionally genetically manipulated.”
In the emails from February 2020, Garry noted that COVID-19 did not appear “natural.”
“I really can’t think of a plausible natural scenario where you get from the bat virus or one very similar to it to nCoV where you insert exactly 4 amino acids 12 nucleotide that all have to be added at the exact same time to gain this function– that and you don’t change any other amino acid in S2? I just can’t figure out how this gets accomplished in nature,” Garry wrote to Fauci and Collins.
Garry told The Intercept that the email was taken “out of context” and that the researchers eventually dispensed with their skepticism about COVID-19’s natural origins. But Garry’s insistence that “My initial impression and that of others about the [furin cleavage site] was wrong” doesn’t let Fauci and Collins off the hook for ignoring potential evidence and quelling scientific inquiry to fit their agenda, specifically regarding the lab-leak theory.
As The Intercept reported:
As they discussed what to present to the public, the scientists determined that questions of potential lab origin might prove more trouble than they’re worth. “Given the evidence presented and the discussions around it, I would conclude that a follow-up discussion on the possible origin of 2019-nCoV would be of much interest,” wrote Ron Fouchier, a virologist at the Erasmus MC Center for Viroscience in the Netherlands, on February 2. Years earlier, Fouchier’s gain-of-function research had brought the discipline under fire for a 2011 experiment in which he infected ferrets in adjacent cages with the avian influenza virus, allowing it to become airborne and infect mammals. “However, further debate about such accusations would unnecessarily distract top researchers from their active duties and do unnecessary harm to science in general and science in China in particular,” Fouchier wrote.
As the Republicans who signed onto the Tuesday letter alleged, Fauci and Collins did not care for any expert opinions that contradicted their desire to downplay what they smeared as a “conspiracy” before the pandemic even heightened in the United States.
“Wondering if there is something NIH can do to help put down this very destructive conspiracy,” Collins wrote in April 2020 as the lab leak theory gained traction and was censored by Big Tech. “I hoped the Nature Medicine article on the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 would settle this. But probably didn’t get much visibility. Anything more we can do?”
“I would not do anything about this right now,” Fauci replied. “It is a shiny object that will go away in times.”