NIH Director Snaps At Fox News Anchor Pressing Him On COVID Origins

NIH Director Fr. Francis Collins holds up a model of the coronavirus as he testifies before a hearing looking into the budget estimates for National Institute of Health (NIH) and the state of medical research on Capi... NIH Director Fr. Francis Collins holds up a model of the coronavirus as he testifies before a hearing looking into the budget estimates for National Institute of Health (NIH) and the state of medical research on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 26, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SARAH SILBIGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 2, 2021 7:02 p.m.

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins on Wednesday increasingly lost his patience with Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum as she repeatedly pressed him on the origins of COVID-19.

Citing emails in April 2020 showing that Collins dismissed the theory that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, MacCallum asked whether the NIH sent funds to its lab in Wuhan for gain-of-function research of coronaviruses. Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have pushed the theory that the coronavirus started in a Wuhan research lab before somehow escaping — which has circulated within right-wing and conspiracy theory sites for months.

Collins denied that the NIH got the green light to create a deadly infectious disease.

“I categorically deny that the NIH and its grant funding in a subcontract with the Wuhan Institute of Virology was permitted to do anything that would have created a virus that would have increased its transmissibility or virulence for humans,” Collins said.

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Collins added that he is “unhappy” with the notion that the NIH funded the creation of COVID-19.

“I categorically deny that and I’m a bit unhappy when people keep repeating those claims when they’re simply not true,” Collins said.

Collins said that he is “a little disturbed” over allegations against the NIH.

“I’m a little disturbed, we’re spending this time on this issue,” Collins said. “Here we are today, we should be talking about how to put COVID-19 behind us, not going back to January 2020.”

Later in the interview, Collins appeared exasperated when MacCallum insisted that she was grilling him on the lab leak theory because of the need to “put COVID behind us.”

“I agree we need to get to the bottom of this. Gosh, you and I spent a bunch of minutes talking about an issue that we need an answer to and people are still dying from COVID-19 and we didn’t talk about the ways to get to an end to this with vaccines,” Collins said. “So please could we have a bit more of the focus on how we’re going to save lives while we’re talking about how this all started? We need both of those, don’t we?”

MacCallum replied that questions on the origins of COVID-19 won’t go away anytime soon.

“We need to make sure that we do everything we can to protect our national security when it comes to these labs and any potential funding that might have gone to those labs,” MacCallum said. “We’re going to continue to ask those questions.”

Collins’ appearance on Fox News comes on the heels of President Biden calling on intelligence agencies to conduct a an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and to report back to him in 90 days.

“I have now asked the intelligence community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion,” Biden said.

Biden’s statement came on the heels of the Wall Street Journal‘s report of three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology seeking hospital care in November 2019. The President’s statement also followed growing criticism over a report from the World Health Organization that dismissed the possibility that the infectious disease escaped from the Wuhan lab.

Watch Collins’ remarks below:

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