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Fauci on Rand Paul: 'I just don't understand what the problem is with him'

President BidenJoe BidenEx-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' News leaders deal with the post-Trump era MORE's chief medical adviser Anthony FauciAnthony FauciDelta variant's UK dominance sparks concerns in US Overnight Health Care: FDA says millions of J&J doses from troubled plant must be thrown out | WHO warns Africa falling far behind in vaccinations | Top CDC official says US not ready for next pandemic Top CDC official warns US not ready for next pandemic MORE said Thursday he doesn't "understand what the problem is" with Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFauci to Chelsea Clinton: The 'phenomenal amount of hostility' I face is 'astounding' GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message Fox host claims Fauci lied to Congress, calls for prosecution MORE (R-Ky.) after multiple heated exchanges with the senator during hearings.

Fauci, the nation's leading infectious diseases expert, was asked by host Gayle KingGayle KingFauci to Chelsea Clinton: The 'phenomenal amount of hostility' I face is 'astounding' Caitlyn Jenner: My family not 'involved whatsoever' in gubernatorial bid 'CBS This Morning' moving to new Times Square studio MORE on "CBS This Morning" how he felt about speaking with the senator.

"You know, Gayle, I just don't want to get into that tit for tat. I just don't understand what the problem is with him," Fauci said. "Well, I'm just going to do my job and he can do what he wants to do and we'll see what happens."

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Paul and Fauci most recently clashed on Tuesday during a hearing on the pandemic response.

The senator alleged that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sent funding to a lab in Wuhan, China, that artificially "juiced up" a virus originally found in bats.

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"Sen. Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect," Fauci, who leads the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told Paul. "The NIH has not ever, and does not now, fund 'gain of function research' in the Wuhan Institute."

Fauci noted that the NIH had funded a project that took place in the Wuhan lab, but it was not meant for gain of function research into human-made superviruses. The NIH awarded a grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a group that hired the lab to conduct genetic analyses of bat coronaviruses. The Trump administration forced the NIH to terminate the grant last year.

"Let me explain to you why that was done: The SARS-CoV-1 originated in bats in China. It would have been irresponsible of us if we did not investigate the bat viruses and the serology to see who might have been infected," Fauci said.

Paul continued to argue with Fauci, accusing him of supporting the laboratory and cooperating with the Chinese government.

"I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I'm fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China," Fauci said. "However, I will repeat again, the NIH and NIAID categorically has not funded gain of function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute."

The pair have clashed repeatedly during the coronavirus pandemic, including arguing over the necessity to wear masks in public in March. "Here we go again with the theater," Fauci told the senator during that hearing.