Fauci to Face Grilling by Republican Committee on Covid Origins

Fauci to Face Grilling by Republican Committee on Covid Origins

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the former government scientist both celebrated and reviled for his work on Covid, will return to Capitol Hill on Monday to meet with some of his fiercest opponents: members of a Republican-led House panel, to accuse him of helping to unleash the worst pandemic in a century.

Republicans on the House subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic have spent 15 months searching emails, Slack messages and research proposals for evidence against Dr. to search Fauci. In half a million pages of documents and more than 100 hours of closed-door testimony, the panel has so far found nothing that could link the 83-year-old immunologist to the beginnings of the Covid outbreak in China.

But the panel found emails that suggested Dr. Fauci’s former employees tried to circumvent public records laws at the medical research agency he led for 38 years until his retirement in December 2022.

Some of these emails represent that Dr. Fauci is preoccupied with his public image; A consultant’s message from April 2021 states that Dr. allergies and infectious diseases.

Over the years, the agency awarded research grants to the EcoHealth Alliance, an American nonprofit group that worked with international scientists — including some at a coronavirus lab in Wuhan, China, the city where the pandemic ultimately began — as part of the effort to anticipate disease outbreaks.

Dr. Fauci’s appearance at a House panel hearing on Monday will be the first opportunity for lawmakers to question him about his agency’s record-keeping practices. For Republicans on the committee, the hearing is also the culmination so far of a long campaign against American scientists and health officials who they say helped trigger the Covid pandemic.

In a series of high-profile hearings over the past year, no new evidence has emerged that the pandemic emerged from a laboratory, with or without the help of American taxpayer dollars. Democratic lawmakers have warned that the subcommittee’s work would amount to “an attempt to exploit concerns about a laboratory origin to stoke sentiment against our nation’s scientists and public health officials for partisan advantage.”

But Dr. Fauci, who spent more than 50 years in government service and advised presidents of both parties on outbreaks of infectious diseases such as AIDS, Ebola, anthrax and influenza, was always the panel’s most valuable prize. Through his work under President Donald J. Trump and then President Biden, Dr. Fauci became the face of a Covid response that inspired both adoration and frustration among Americans.

Dr. Fauci appeared frequently on television and became a hero to Mr. Trump’s critics for correcting his falsehoods about the coronavirus. In the early days of the pandemic, he also downplayed the importance of masks for the general public and tried to preserve them for medical workers, but then later encouraged mask-wearing — prompting his critics to say he was reversing have. And he publicly celebrated the Covid vaccinations, thereby turning the anti-vaccination movement against him.

At Monday’s hearing in the House of Representatives, Dr. Fauci will almost certainly receive a cool reception. Republicans on the panel have tried diligently to make the case that the institute run by Dr. Fauci previously led, funded lab work may have contributed to the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.

Republicans have particularly focused on funding for the institute awarded to the EcoHealth Alliance, which was passed on to Chinese scientists. They have accused these scientists of inventing the coronavirus in their Wuhan laboratory.

“Covid-19 was not caused by bats in a wet market,” Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia claimed last year as the subcommittee’s work began. “It was made in a lab funded by Fauci. He tried to cover it up.”

Scientists and health officials have repeatedly suggested that the coronaviruses being studied at the Wuhan lab with American funding — as well as other viruses known to be being studied there — bear little resemblance to the virus that started the pandemic . A National Institutes of Health official testified before a different House committee last year that comparing the two was like “saying a human is equal to a cow.”

In closed testimony before the House coronavirus panel in January, Dr. Fauci, as before, said it was possible that laboratory research caused the pandemic and that he was “open-minded” about the origins. But he said: “Some people are developing things from this that are kind of crazy.” And he reiterated that he believes the weight of evidence suggests the virus originated in animals before it spread to humans outside of a laboratory.

In this statement, Dr. Fauci pointed to studies based on early cases and viral genomes, as well as samples from an illegal wildlife market in Wuhan, that suggested the pandemic-causing virus jumped from animals to people there.

“When I read the work of an international group of highly respected evolutionary virologists, I have a much stronger belief that this is a natural event,” said Dr. Fauci.

Republican lawmakers attacked other parts of Dr. Fauci’s January statement to attack America’s response to Covid. In a memo distributed Friday, Republicans highlighted comments made by Dr. Fauci highlighted, among other things, six-foot distancing rules, mask guidelines and vaccination requirements.

Dr. Fauci is also likely to face scrutiny over recent revelations that two of his former employees – Dr. David Morens, a senior adviser, and Greg Folkers, a chief of staff — have faced intense scrutiny for emailing during the pandemic, when they appeared to be evading public records laws. In his opening remarks, published online on Sunday evening, Dr. Fauci says he knows “nothing” about Dr. Morens’ email practices and said that Dr. Morens, who helped him write scientific papers, “was not an advisor to me on institute policy or other questions.” content questions.”

Some of the emails suggested that officials at the agency, tasked with producing records under transparency laws, helped colleagues circumvent those rules, a possibility that a government accountability expert called “extremely concerning.” .

The emails revealed that agency officials were not concerned about the emergence of evidence related to the origins of the pandemic, but rather about the disclosure of notes in which they bluntly discussed “political attacks” on their research.

Nevertheless, Dr. Morens points out in the emails that Dr. Fauci was careful not to make sensitive comments in places where journalists or the public might find them.

“I can either send things to Tony via his personal Gmail or give them to him at work or at his home,” Dr. wrote. Morens about Dr. Fauci said in April 2021 that he assured several scientists that they did not have to worry about public records requests. “He’s too smart to let colleagues send him things that could cause trouble.”

Dr. Fauci denied this in his opening statement, writing: “To the best of my knowledge, I have never conducted official business through my personal email address.”

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2024-06-03 13:58:46