FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., accused Dr. Anthony Fauci of attempting to deflect criticism of his initial handling of the COVID-19 lab leak theory on Monday following a fiery interview in which he accused his detractors of launching “anti-science” attacks.
Fauci spoke at length about the lab leak theory during an appearance on the New York Times’ “Sway” podcast, reiterating his belief that human contact with an infected animal, not a lab accident, was the most likely explanation for the pandemic’s origins. Republican lawmakers, including Blackburn, have been critical of Fauci’s declaration last May that there was no evidence to support the lab leak theory.
“Whether intentional or not, Dr. Fauci’s statements shielded the Chinese Communist Party in covering up its role in creating this deadly pandemic by downplaying the possibility that the virus leaked from a lab,” Blackburn said in a statement. “Fauci, along with the mainstream media, refused to take the lab leak theory seriously, and until recently, went to great lengths to portray it as ‘nutty.’ Big tech companies like Facebook went so far as to censor discussion about the origins of COVID. No amount of revisionism will change these facts.”
Last month, President Biden ordered the intelligence community to further investigate both theories and report back with their findings within 90 days. Calls to investigate the lab leak theory, once dismissed as a conspiracy, have intensified in recent weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized with COVID-19-like symptoms in the fall of 2019.
Blackburn called on Fauci to explain why he did not investigate the lab leak theory sooner and why he did not speak out against reports that were initially dismissive of the possibility.
Fauci explained his skepticism regarding the lab leak theory during the podcast, arguing that available evidence reviewed by virologists suggested COVID-19 was “absolutely totally compatible with something that evolved from bat viruses.” He added that experts haven’t found evidence to support the theory that the virus was “something that came from a lab.”
Fauci argued that the debate about the theory has become “political.”
“The fact is, I just gave you the reasons from speaking with and dealing with knowledgeable virologists and evolutionary biologists for years and years and years. Still, I do keep an open mind that it’s a possibility,” Fauci said. “So that’s the reason why you say, well, this person says it’s a possibility. And that person says there’s a possibility, almost in the context that I’m disagreeing with them. I’m not. I’m saying it is a possibility. I think it’s a very, very, very, very remote possibility. But it’s a possibility.”
Fauci also dismissed allegations from Blackburn and other GOP lawmakers that he worked with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to censor posts on the lab leak theory. The criticism stemmed from emails exchanged between Fauci and Zuckerberg that became public knowledge following Freedom of Information Act requests by multiple outlets.
“Any thought of that is total conspiracy theory and total flight of fantasy,” Fauci said.