America's top infectious disease doctor Anthony FauciAnthony FauciKid Rock releases anti-Biden, anti-Fauci single with a 'Let's go, Brandon' chorus Fauci: Omicron-specific vaccines 'prudent' but may be unnecessary Conservative pundit says YouTube blocked interview with Rand Paul MORE on Thursday blasted Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulConservative pundit says YouTube blocked interview with Rand Paul These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 I'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back MORE (R-Ky.) for suggesting he is somehow responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
"You have said I am unwilling to take any responsibility for the current pandemic. I have no responsibility for the current pandemic," Fauci said.
Paul accused Fauci of misleading the public about the role the National Institutes of Health played in funding potentially dangerous "gain of function research" in Wuhan, China, and suggested that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was the result of such research, and then was released into the world because of a lab leak.
Paul is one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who have repeatedly tried to link the origin of the pandemic to Fauci, who runs the institute that helped fund some research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology with grant money sent through a nonprofit called EcoHealth Alliance.
Gain-of-function is a controversial method where researchers make a pathogen more infectious, often to develop more effective treatments and vaccines.
During a Senate Health Committee hearing about the federal COVID-19 response, Paul and Fauci clashed over the definition of "gain of function," which Paul said Fauci changed in order to "save your ass."
He accused Fauci of lying about the role NIH has played, and said there could be even more dangerous viruses that could escape from Wuhan.
"The preponderance of evidence points to this coming from a lab," Paul said. "Your persistent denials are a clear and present danger to the country and the world."
An investigation into the origins of the virus conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies broadly agreed that the virus was not developed as a biological weapon or through genetic engineering, but the true origins may never be known. Both a lab leak and natural origination are plausible, the report found, but neither can be proved definitively.
When given time to respond to Paul's attacks, a frustrated Fauci he wouldn't have time to refute all of the claims he disputed.
"There were so many things that were egregious misrepresentations here," Fauci said.
"As usual I have a great deal of respect for this body, the Senate, and it makes me very uncomfortable to have to say something, but he is egregiously incorrect in what he says."