Dr. Anthony Fauci lashed out while testifying before a Senate committee on Tuesday after Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky again challenged him, this time accusing the White House’s chief medical adviser of previously lying to Congress.
Fauci faced questions from members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Those who might have expected fireworks between him and Paul were not disappointed.
With regard to a claim made by Fauci during a hearing in May that the National Institutes of Health had not funded any “gain of function” research on animal viruses in a lab in China, Paul pounced on the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“Dr. Fauci, as you are aware, it is a crime to lie to Congress. … On your last trip to our committee on May 11, you stated that the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” he said to Fauci.
“Dr. Fauci, knowing it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11 where you claimed that the NIH never funded gain of function research in Wuhan?” the senator asked.
He warned Fauci that it is “a felony and a five-year penalty for lying to Congress.”
Fauci attempted to answer Paul, but his microphone was turned down. When he was given a chance to respond to Paul, he lost his temper and attempted to turn the tables on the Kentucky Republican.
“Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement,” he said.
“This paper that you’re referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain of function,” Fauci continued.
“You take an animal virus and you increase transmissibility to humans, you’re saying that’s not gain of function?” Paul said.
Fauci then accused the senator of not being knowledgeable about basic virology terms.
“Senator Paul, you do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about,” he said.
The display of fireworks was a follow-up from the last time Paul and Fauci faced one another more than two months ago. During the May hearing, Paul asked Fauci to explain ties to gain of function research between the NIH and the Wuhan lab.
Fauci then denied that funding to overseas labs that worked to study and alter natural coronaviruses qualified as “gain of function” research.
Per the NIH, gain-of-function “refers to a type of mutation that results in an altered gene product that possesses a new molecular function or a new pattern of gene expression. A loss-of-function mutation is a type of mutation in which the altered gene product lacks the molecular function of the wild-type gene.”
In other words, such research is the scientific process by which humans can alter an aspect of a pathogen in order to make it more infectious.
The NIH reported it had canceled funding for research on bat viruses in April 2020 after that research “drew [then-]President [Donald] Trump’s attention for its ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
The Wall Street Journal report to which Paul referred on Tuesday said staffers at the Wuhan lab had become mysteriously ill and required hospitalization in November 2019, just before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
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