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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 FauciNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Underfunding classics and humanities is dangerous 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 TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 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 PompeoMike PompeoUS intel: Saudi crown prince approved Khashoggi killing Golden statue of Trump at CPAC ridiculed online Five things to watch at CPAC 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.