WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dr. Anthony Fauci had their latest sparring match when the two traded barbs – with Paul calling on Fauci to resign and accusing him of “covering [his] ass” – at a Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee hearing held on Thursday.
Paul, a fierce critic of Fauci, has accused him repeatedly of lying about the government having been responsible for funding so-called “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where many – including Paul – believe that COVID-19 had been created and leaked, leading to a worldwide pandemic.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) – of which Fauci serves as director – has admitted that it had bestowed a grant upon U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance, which then issued a sub-award to the WIV.
Fauci has steadfastly and repeatedly denied Paul’s accusations that the funding went towards “gain-of-function” research – which can result in altered pathogenesis, transmissibility, or host range – but that didn’t stop Paul from laying into him yet again at Thursday’s hearing.
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“Dr. Fauci, I don’t expect you today to admit that you approved of NIH funding for a gain of function research in Wuhan, but your repeated denials have worn thin,” Paul said. “The facts are clear. The NIH did fund gain of function research in Wuhan despite your protestations…your persistent denials are not simply a stain on your reputation, but are a clear and present danger to the country and to the world.”
Paul also claimed that continued research in Wuhan “could cause a pandemic even worse the next time” and that COVID-19 could have spawned from experiments that the Chinese government has kept secret.
“Will you today finally take some responsibility for funding gain of function research in Wuhan?” Paul asked.
Fauci responded, saying that he disagreed with “so many of the things” that Paul said, and claimed that “gain-of-function” is a nebulous term and that work has been undertaken to formulate “a more precise definition.”
Previously, the NIH website had defined “gain-of-function” as “a type of research that modifies a biological agent so that it confers new or enhanced activity to that agent.” However, that section of the website has recently been changed to cover “enhanced potential pandemic pathogen” research instead, which is defined by the NIH as “research that may be reasonably anticipated to create, transfer or use potential pandemic pathogens resulting from the enhancement of a pathogen’s transmissibility and/or virulence in humans.”
Paul claimed that the NIH was attempting to essentially make the concept of “gain-of-function” disappear simply by changing the definition, saying to Fauci that,
“There’s the preponderance of evidence now points towards this coming from the lab and what you’ve done is change the definition on your website to try to cover your ass.”
When Fauci again denied responsibility for funding “gain-of-function” research – saying that the Kentucky Senator had made an “egregious misrepresentation” of his words, Paul fired back, saying that Fauci should quit.
“You won’t admit that it’s dangerous. And for that lack of judgment, I think it’s time that you resign,” Paul said.