Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday new criticisms of him are “really very much an attack on science” following revelations and accusations last week that he was presented early evidence that COVID-19 may have originated from a Chinese lab, but chose to ignore it.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Fauci, of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, defended himself and his handling of the pandemic and lashed out at critics to imply their renewed attacks were personal and not fact- or science-based.
“I’m concerned about that more because it’s really very much an attack on science, I think,” Fauci told Maddow, adding that “activists” concerned about the virus managed to get his “attention in a very theatrical, confrontative, iconoclastic way, but they were fundamentally good people.”
“They were not anti-science,” he continued. “What is the thread going through what’s happening now is very much an anti-science approach, so that’s a big, big difference. I mean, it is what it is, I’m a public figure, I’m gonna take the arrows and the slings. But they’re just, they’re fabricated, that’s just what it is.”
Fauci went on to say his job was to “make a vaccine” to combat COVID-19 utilizing the resources of his agency through funding to universities and other institutions, “and we succeeded.”
“That’s what I do. All the other stuff is just a terrible, not happy type of a distraction. But it’s all nonsense,” he said.
The NIAID director was responding to emails published by Buzzfeed News and the Washington Post last week that were obtained through FOIA requests. In a February 2020 email, Fauci said masks Americans could obtain in retail stores were not effective against the spread of COVID-19, though he spent the next year hyping masks in all public spaces, even recommending that people double-mask at one point.
“The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit (to) keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you,” he wrote.
In a Feb. 1 email from Kristian Andersen of Scripps Research, Fauci was alerted early on that the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which his agency and the National Institutes of Health have reportedly funded, through third-party organizations, for years.
“On a phylogenetic tree the virus looks totally normal and the close clustering with bats suggest that bats serve as the reservoir,” wrote Andersen. “The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered.”
Shortly thereafter, a group of 27 scientists led by EcoHealth Alliance president Peter Daszak, published a paper in the respected scientific journal The Lancet claiming the virus jumped from an animal host to humans, a position Fauci adopted early on and pushed for months.
This email also says the genome of SARS-CoV-2 appears “inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory”.
Yet, other scientists who raised this same point were shut down and ignored, while journalists investigating it were accused of peddling a debunked conspiracy theory
— Sharri Markson (@SharriMarkson) June 2, 2021
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,” Fauci argued in a May 2020 interview with National Geographic.
On Thursday, Fauci tripled down on that theory, telling CNN: “I have always said and will say today to you … that I still believe the most likely origin is from an animal species to a human. The idea, I think, is quite far-fetched that the Chinese deliberately engineered something so that they could kill themselves, as well as other people. I think that’s a bit far out.”
Later in his interview with Maddow, Fauci did acknowledge legitimacy regarding the lab-leak theory, adding it’s “important” to figure out how the virus originated in order to figure out how to prevent a future outbreak.
“It is important to understand that,” he said before repeating earlier criticisms of his detractors. “But it’s being approached in a very vehement way, in a very distorted way, by attacking me. I think the question is extremely legitimate; you should wanna know how this happened so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“But what’s happened in the middle of all that, I become the object of extraordinary — I believe completely inappropriate — distorted and misleading and misrepresented attacks,” he added.
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