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Fox host claims Fauci lied to Congress, calls for prosecution

Fox News host Steve Hilton on Sunday claimed Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFlorida hackers change highway sign to read 'Arrest Fauci' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP torpedoes election bill; infrastructure talks hit snag White House admits July 4 vaccine marker will be missed MORE lied to Congress about the origins of the coronavirus and called for him to be prosecuted, part of a pattern of conservative attacks on the nation's top infectious diseases expert.

During a segment on his show The Next Revolution, Hilton showed a video purportedly from a conference in 2012, where Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), described the controversial process known as "gain-of-function" research.

Hilton claimed the words Fauci used to describe "gain-of-function" research in 2012 were exactly the words used in a progress report to describe U.S.-funded research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

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Gain-of-function is when researchers make a pathogen more infectious, often to develop more effective treatments and vaccines.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a $3.4 million grant to the non-profit EcoHealth Alliance from 2014 to 2019. The Wuhan Institute of Virology was awarded a $600,000 subgrant under that contract, for the purpose of researching bat coronaviruses over five years.

Fauci has advocated for gain-of-function research in the past, but he and NIH director Francis Collins have denied that the NIH was funding it in China. 

In numerous interviews and public appearances, Fauci has said the money to the Wuhan lab was not meant for gain-of-function research into human-made superviruses. 

Last month, Fauci clashed with Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPoll: 58 percent say Fauci should not resign Fauci says he puts 'very little weight in the craziness of condemning me' Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior MORE (R-Ky.) over the grant, and whether the U.S. had been funding gain-of-function research in Wuhan that led to the creation of the virus.

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"The NIH and NIAID categorically has not funded gain-of-function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology," Fauci said at the time. 

As new questions have emerged about the true origins of the coronavirus, some Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators have seized on connections between Fauci and the Wuhan lab, drawing unsubstantiated conclusions that Fauci was responsible for funding the creation of the coronavirus that caused the global pandemic. 

They argue that not only did the virus leak from a lab, it was created with funding dating back to the Obama administration, and the current Biden administration is covering it up.

"Frankly, unless Fauci is prosecuted, and unless he and Collins have fully investigated Biden's sudden conversion to finding out what really happened to cause this pandemic will be completely hollow," Hilton said.

There is no evidence the virus was created in a lab. But scientists have said they cannot rule out the possibility that the virus may have leaked out of the Wuhan lab, which is the world's top coronavirus research institute. 

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Top Republicans, including former President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE, blamed China for the emergence of the virus in 2020, but early reports about the possibility that the coronavirus originated in the Wuhan institute were dismissed.

Recently, some top public health officials, including Fauci, have suggested that COVID-19 could have originated there.

President BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE last month asked the U.S. intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” to come to a definitive conclusion on the disease's origins.

The renewed focus on the origins of the virus has given Republicans a sense of vindication. Trump and his allies have simultaneously ratcheted up attacks on Fauci in an attempt to discredit him, and cast Trump in a much more flattering light for his handling of the pandemic.