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What did Dr. Anthony Fauci know, and when did he know it?
Virologists like Kristian Andersen are justifiably under scrutiny for misleading the public in February 2020; but it was Tony Fauci who really had reason to panic over the lab leak theory.
That’s how Dr. Anthony Fauci referred to the Wuhan Institute of Virology on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, a day after the virologist Kristian Andersen warned Fauci he suspected Sars-Cov-2 might not be entirely natural. (Just spitballing here, Tony!)
Fauci made the error in an email to other federal officials he had no reason to expect anyone would ever see. In fact, the National Institutes of Health later hid it from a public records request.
Which implies Fauci’s mistake was honest. Which, in turn, implies that as of Feb. 1, 2020, he knew so little about the gain-of-function research happening in Wuhan, he couldn’t even get the location of the lab doing it right.
(HERE FOR THE CRIME. AND THE COVER-UP. JOIN ME, PLEASE!)
By the end of January 2020, Sars-Cov-2 had been the world’s focus for two weeks. The NIH was interested even earlier. On Mon., Jan. 13, after a frantic weekend of work, its vaccinologists and Moderna finalized the amino acid sequence for Moderna’s future Covid vaccine.
Yet Fauci apparently had no concerns about the origins of the virus until Andersen called him on Jan. 31. Then, suddenly, he seems to have woken up to the possibility that Sars-Cov-2 might have come out of a Chinese lab - and that his research dollars might have helped fund it.
Early Saturday morning, hours before the “Wuhan University” note, Fauci emailed his deputy, Dr. Hugh Auchincloss, about a 2015 paper on gain-of-function research jointly conducted by researchers at the Wuhan Institute and the University of North Carolina.
“Read this paper as well as the e-mail that I will forward to you now,” Fauci told Auchincloss. “You will have tasks today that must be done.”
That email has received a lot of attention. But Auchincloss’s reply a few hours later has received much less, even though it is arguably the most revealing document of all.
In it, Auchincloss tells Fauci that the paper claims its experiments were “reviewed and approved by NIH,” that he is “not sure what that means,” and that Dr. Emily Erbelding, a senior NIH scientist, will find out if “we have any distant ties to this work abroad.”
(It’s not China, it’s you.)
Though he did not say so in his reply to Auchincloss, Fauci had already been told of another potential connection between NIH and the Wuhan lab. Four days before, his chief of staff had emailed him that his institute “funded Peter’s group for coronavirus work in China for the past five years.”
Peter was Peter Daszak, the head of EcoHealth Alliance. Daszak was forever trying to drum up funding from government agencies, including the Pentagon, for EcoHealth’s research into potential future epidemics. EcoHealth used NIH grants to help pay for coronavirus research at the Wuhan lab - including research eerily similar to the work that could have produced Sars-Cov-2.
Fauci said under oath in a deposition last year that he had met Daszak only “once or twice” and wouldn’t even call him an acquaintance. He added that he didn’t know about the EcoHealth grant until after the Covid epidemic began.
“I became aware of this after all of the attention was put on it, following the early part of January, February, mid-March of 2020,” he said.
This denial is believable. The EcoHealth grants were only a few hundred thousand dollars a year, simply too small for Fauci - who had a $6 billion annual research budget - to notice or care.
Until, suddenly, they weren’t.
(You sure did…)
By the end of that early February weekend, Fauci must have understood his position was uniquely difficult.
Andersen and his fellow virologists were working to figure out if the virus was natural or had come out of a lab. They openly discussed their fears of problems for Chinese-Western relations if they acknowledged the latter possibility.
But Fauci had a second worry - one that does not seem to have occurred to Andersen and the other virologists in February 2020, at least in the documents revealed so far. He knew that NIH generally and his division specifically faced the potential for blowback if a lab leak investigation gained traction.
(I WON’T ASK AGAIN. OR MAYBE I WILL.)
Fortunately, Fauci had some hole cards.
That $6 billion research budget, for one, making his hugely important to any virologist who wanted a successful career.
His four decades of experience in Washington, which made him almost uniquely trusted by both parties, for another.
And his long association with intelligence agencies, dating to the 2001 anthrax attacks, giving him access to classified information - and potentially helping him shape their thinking (and, in turn, the thinking of the academic scientists they brought in to learn about the details of the coronavirus).
So it was that within a few weeks, Andersen and his co-authors had written exactly the paper that Tony Fauci needed them to write, a paper that, without quite saying so, consigned the lab leak theory to the fringes of conspiracy.
If only the world’s largest social media site could push it even further down the rathole!
Fortunately, Fauci had a friend there too.
Fauci may not have known what he’d funded in Wuhan.
But once he found out he knew better than anyone how to make sure he wouldn’t get blamed for it.