White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday once again found himself sparring with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) when the Republican senator repeatedly questioned the nation’s top infectious disease expert about the origins of COVID-19.
During a Senate hearing on the COVID-19 response, Paul accused the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of sending funds to its lab in Wuhan, China to “juice up” a virus originally found in bats to produce a supervirus that can infect humans.
Paul, who was the first senator to test positive for COVID-19 last year, asked Fauci repeatedly about a theory that suggests the coronavirus started in a Wuhan research lab before somehow escaping — which has circulated within right-wing and conspiracy theory sites for months.
Fauci wasn’t having it.
“Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect,” Fauci said. “The NIH has not ever, and does not now, fund ‘gain of function research’ in the Wuhan Institute.”
A back-and-forth ensued between Paul and Fauci as the senator alleged that the White House chief medical adviser supported the Wuhan lab’s production of a virus that has killed millions of people globally in the last year-plus.
Fauci maintained that although he agrees that it’s important to investigate the origins of COVID-19, NIH is not complicit in funding the controversial research practice known as gain-of-function in its Wuhan lab.
“I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done and I’m fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China,” Fauci said.”However, I will repeat again, the NIH and NIH categorically has not funded gain of function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute.”
After Paul’s time was up, Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) followed up by asking Fauci about the impact of conspiracy theories peddled by Paul and others on Americans’ willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Conspiracy theories certainly are not helpful in what we’re trying to do, I guess I can say that with some degree of confidence,” Fauci said.
Fauci has taken Paul to task repeatedly in the past year whenever the Republican senator complained about COVID-19 mitigation measures.
In March, Paul argued that the public shouldn’t have to wear masks after getting vaccinated because he believes there is “virtually 0 percent chance” they will contract the novel coronavirus. He then took aim at Fauci for his remarks earlier this year saying that double masking during the pandemic “makes common sense.” Paul argued that wearing masks after receiving vaccines against COVID-19 is “just theater.”
“Here we go again with the theater,” Fauci said, appearing exasperated. ″Can I just state for the record that masks are not theater.”
Last September, Paul and Fauci got into a heated exchange when the senator criticized the nation’s top infectious disease expert for his mitigation recommendations, which included halting sports games and closing restaurants and movie theaters that “have led to this economic lockdown.”
Fauci stood by his past assertion that the only way the U.S. could stop the “explosion” of COVID-19 cases was by “shutting down,” which he clarified meant following social distancing protocols that Americans had already become familiar with at that time.
Watch the exchange below:
"Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect that the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan institute" — Dr. Fauci pic.twitter.com/6KP6PeoURz
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 11, 2021