NIH head dismissed Wuhan lab leak theory as ‘conspiracy’, email shows

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The theory that the coronavirus leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China was dismissed as a “conspiracy” by National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins in April of last year, newly released emails show.

The email from Collins to current White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci and others is part of a tranche of more than 3,200 pages of emails obtained by Buzzfeed News and published Tuesday.

On April 15, 2020, Fox News anchor Bret Baier reported that US officials were increasingly confident that the virus “likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory … not as a bioweapon but as part of China’s attempt to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States.”

Baier discussed his reporting on that night’s edition of “Hannity,” saying that officials were “100 percent confident that China altered the data, the statistics, they did a lot of things to contain the information. Meanwhile, they cut down … travel from Wuhan internally, but left the international flights going, and there obviously is how you have a spread like this.”

Collins titled an email containing a link to Bret Baier’s appearance on “Hannity” as “conspiracy gains momentum,” according to Buzzfeed.
AP

The following day, April 16, Collins forwarded a link to a Mediaite writeup of Baier’s “Hannity” appearance to Fauci, NIH Deputy Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Deputy Director Clifford Lane, and NIH spokesperson John Burklow under the subject line “conspiracy gains momentum”. The rest of the message is redacted.

Fauci sent a reply to Collins at 2:45 a.m. April 17. That response is also redacted.

The following day, April 18, Fauci received an email from Peter Daszak, president of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, thanking him “for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

“From my perspective, your comments are brave, and coming from your trusted voice, will help dispel the myths being spun around the virus’ origins,” Daszak added.

Last week, Fauci admitted to lawmakers that the NIH had allocated $600,000 to the Wuhan Institute of Virology over a five-year period to fund research on whether bat coronaviruses could be transmitted to humans. The money was sent via the EcoHealth Alliance.

Wuhan Institute of Virology
The National Institutes of Health reportedly allocated $600,000 to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to fund research.
AFP via Getty Images

Fauci and Collins have denied that the money went to fund so-called gain of function research, which Fauci defined last week as “taking a virus that could infect humans and making it either more transmissible and/or pathogenic for humans.”

The pair have also admitted, however, that there is no way to know whether scientists at the institute conducted gain of function research outside the grant’s remit.

The so-called “lab leak” theory gained traction last month after the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers at the lab became so ill in November of 2019 that they sought hospital treatment. Though it is not clear whether the workers contracted coronavirus, their hospitalization coincides with the period when most experts believe the virus was spreading through the city of Wuhan.

President Biden has since ordered the intelligence community to undertake a 90-day review of all evidence pertaining to the origin of the virus. For his part, Collins told Fox News last month that he still believes the virus “most likely … spilled over from bats into humans by some transmission that we haven’t fully understood” before adding that a thorough investigation was necessary.

“The evidence has finally caught up with the Chinese Communist Party, with Dr. Fauci, and with the other permanent Washington types who for over a year have said that the idea that the coronavirus came from a China lab leak was a conspiracy theory and that anybody who believed that was circus freak-crazy … ” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told “Hannity” Tuesday night. “It was a reasonable question to ask from day one.”

“We’ve lost a year here, and I don’t know if we’ll ever find the origin of the virus now … We need to know this so that we can keep it from happening again,” Kennedy added, “and I don’t know now if we’ll ever find out, and that’s a bloody shame.”

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