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Fauci Faces Intense Questioning on COVID-19 Origins

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GOP-led House subcommittee grills Fauci on COVID-19 origins Top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is set to testify before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. The GOP-led panel has been investigating the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year. They investigate whether US-funded research in China played a role in the virus’s emergence.

Back in January, Fauci spent 14 hours over two days answering questions from the House panel behind closed doors. On Monday, he faces the panel again, publicly and on camera, for the first time since ending his five decades of government service.

Most scientists believe the virus likely emerged in nature, jumping from animals to humans, probably at a wildlife market in Wuhan. There is no new scientific information supporting a lab leak theory. A US intelligence analysis states there’s insufficient evidence to prove either way. A recent investigation found the Chinese government froze critical efforts to trace the virus’s source early in the outbreak.

Fauci has stated he is open to both theories but believes there’s more evidence supporting COVID-19’s natural origins. “I have a completely open mind to either possibility,” he said in his opening statement.

It’s a rare spectacle Fauci, one of the longest-serving officials in the federal government, defending himself before Congress again after already spending hours testifying behind closed doors earlier this year.

Republicans accuse Fauci of lying to Congress when he denied in May 2022 that his agency funded gain of function research at a lab in Wuhan. NIH gave grants to EcoHealth Alliance, which used some funds to work with a Chinese lab studying bat coronaviruses. The government suspended federal funding to EcoHealth Alliance last month due to improper monitoring of some experiments.

Gain of function research involves enhancing a virus to study its real-world impact. Fauci emphasized he was using the definition of risky experiments. He reiterated that it would be molecularly impossible for the bat viruses studied with EcoHealth’s funds to turn into the pandemic virus.

Fauci also tried to dispel the claims of concealing public records. “To the best of my knowledge, I have never conducted official business via my personal email,” he said in his opening remarks.

The infectious disease expert became a household name during the pandemic under both Presidents Trump and Biden. He explained public health advice as scientists learned about the new virus. Research from his agency led to vaccines that enabled a return to normalcy.

The House panel will question him about the science behind controversial advice, including social distancing. Fauci remains a highly politicized figure, somebody whom many admire but others have come to dislike. His testimony should help answer some of the remaining questions and put the US response to the pandemic into perspective.

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