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Fauci dismisses 'circular argument' coronavirus originated in Chinese lab

Fauci dismisses 'circular argument' coronavirus originated in Chinese lab
© Bonnie Cash

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci urges Americans to conduct 'risk-benefit assessment' before holiday travel Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Fauci: 'We're in a very difficult situation at all levels' but 'help is on the way' MORE, the nation's top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, shot down theories the virus that has caused a global pandemic was man-made or released accidentally from a Chinese lab.

In a wide-ranging interview with National Geographic, Fauci said available research indicated the virus evolved naturally.

"If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats, and what's out there now is very, very strongly leaning toward this [virus] could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated— the way the mutations have naturally evolved," Fauci said. "A number of very qualified evolutionary biologists have said that everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that it evolved in nature and then jumped species."

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Fauci similarly dismissed theories the virus was naturally occurring but had been accidentally released from a lab where it was being studied, setting off the pandemic.

"That means it was in the wild to begin with. That's why I don't get what they're talking about [and] why I don't spend a lot of time going in on this circular argument," Fauci said.

Fauci, along with coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, have largely served as the administration's expert faces amid the coronavirus outbreak, putting them in roles that sometimes clash with President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE or his political appointees. 

The Trump administration is stepping up efforts to blame China for the pandemic and several officials including Trump and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo says Mideast strategy will be Trump administration policy 'until our time is complete' Trump administration pulls out of Open Skies treaty with Russia Tibetan political leader makes visit to White House for first time in six decades MORE have pushed the possibility that the virus was created by Chinese researchers or accidentally released by a lab in Wuhan, China, where it was being studied.

Trump last week said he had seen evidence linking the virus to the Chinese lab, though he did not provide details.

Pompeo similarly said on Sunday there was "enormous evidence" the outbreak originated in a lab, but provided no further information.

In a rare public statement last week, U.S. intelligence agencies said they agreed with "the widespread scientific consensus" that the novel coronavirus was "not manmade or genetically modified" but are investigating whether it originated in a Wuhan lab.