Story at a glance

  • Anthony Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul traded barbs during Senate committee testimony.
  • Paul cited a study implying the NIH-funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology prior to the pandemic.
  • Fauci previously stated the NIH did not fund bat coronavirus research in Wuhan.

A line of questioning quickly devolved into accusations and arguments during a Senate hearing between White House COVID-19 advisor Anthony Fauci and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday when discussing the origins of the COVID-19 virus. 

Testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Fauci, alongside other experts including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, discussed the current national COVID-19 situation as new infections and hospitalizations are on the rise.

Sen. Paul used his time to ask about a study, saying that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that experimented with bat coronavirus genes. 

The suggestion of NIH- and U.S.-funded research toward the Wuhan Institute of Virology has become more controversial as theories about the coronavirus originating from the lab gain more traction among global health professionals. 


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Paul alleged that these gain-of-function studies manipulated zoonotic viruses to be able to infect humans under the purview of the NIH as a means of studying and preventing contagious pathogens. 

He then turned to Fauci, who is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within the NIH, asking if the agency did fund this research.

“Knowing it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11 where you claim that the NIH never funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan?” Paul asked.

Fauci responded by saying he has never lied to Congress and will not retract his previous testimony. The exchange quickly escalated amid the accusations.

“Sen. Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about,” Fauci said. 

Paul further implied Fauci was trying to “obscure” accountability for the 4 million deaths attributed to COVID-19 if the NIH did fund this research. 

“I totally resent the lie you are now propagating, senator,” Fauci continued, noting that it was molecularly impossible for the viruses cited in the scientific literature referenced by Paul to evolve into the COVID-19 virus. “If anybody is lying here, senator, it is you.”

Previously, the origin of COVID-19 was thought to have emerged from bats or other animals sold from a wet market in Wuhan, China. 

Recent comments made by former CDC Director Robert Redfield have added credibility to the previously discredited theory the virus came from a lab, prompting other health officials, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to request more painstaking reviews and audits of Chinese laboratories, namely the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 



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Published on Jul 20, 2021