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Report: Officials Suppressed COVID Lab Leak Theory, Concerned About Public's Reaction to Chinese Involvement

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In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, federal officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci suppressed the theory that the virus originated in a Chinese lab despite indications from experts that a lab leak was possible.

Fox News reported that Dr. Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Lab, emailed Fauci on Jan. 31, 2020, saying that he believed COVID-19’s “features (potentially) look engineered.” He added that the “genome is inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”

Fauci quickly convened a conference call with federal officials and a dozen virologists from around the world, according to Fox.

According to notes from that call, Michael Farzan, chair of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, said, “I think it becomes a question of how do you put all this together, whether you believe in this series of coincidences, what you know of the lab in Wuhan, how much could be in nature — accidental release or natural event? I am 70:30 or 60:40.”

Dr. Robert Garry, a professor at the Tulane University School of Medicine, reportedly said, “I really can’t think of a plausible natural scenario where you get from the bat virus or one very similar to it to [COVID-19].”

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“I just can’t figure out how this gets accomplished in nature. … Of course, in the lab it would be easy,” he added.

However, Dr. Francis Collins, then-director of the National Institutes of Health, reportedly stated, “I am coming around to the view that a natural origin is more likely. But I share your view that a swift convening of experts in a confidence-inspiring framework (WHO seems really the only option) is needed, or the voices of conspiracy will quickly dominate.”

Collins further contended that “science and international harmony” could be greatly harmed and research into the virus hampered if China were accused of wrongdoing.

Do you think the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab?

According to Fox, “suspicions of the lab leak theory were suppressed over concerns of how the public would react to news of possible Chinese government involvement.”

Garry later recounted that a consensus emerged from the discussion that no paper about the origins of the virus should be written, but that if anyone chose to do so, they should not “mention a lab origin as that will just add fuel to the conspiracists.”

Just four days later, five virologists on the call wrote a preliminary paper concluding that COVID-19 came from natural sources.

Drafts of the document were sent to Fauci and Collins for their review before it was published online in February 2020. It later appeared in its final form on March 17, 2020, in Nature Medicine.

“Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus,” the virologists wrote in the article.

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Among the authors were Andersen and Garry, despite their earlier statements indicating that COVID-19 likely was manmade.

Garry told The Intercept this month that an email he sent to Fauci suggesting the virus was engineered was taken out of context.

“This was one email among many I was sharing with my colleagues,” he said. “I changed my mind with new information/new data. … That’s how science works. No one was trying to mislead the public.”

When reports in April 2020 identified the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China as a potential source of the virus, Collins reportedly emailed Fauci, “Wondering if there is something NIH can do to help put down this very destructive conspiracy.”

Fauci replied, “I would not do anything about this right now. It is a shiny object that will go away in [time].”

Fauci addressed the topic hours later at a White House news briefing, saying, “The mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.”

About a month later, Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded close to $9 million in government research grants to Andersen’s and Garry’s organizations.

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio noted the order of events in a news briefing on Capitol Hill last week.

The ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee argued that Andersen’s Jan. 31, 2020, email sent Fauci “into complete overdrive to cover this information up and not present it to the American people.”

Within 20 days, he said, a version of the Nature Medicine article was published online.


Jordan called for Congress to bring Andersen and Garry in to testify concerning their changed views on the origins of COVID-19.

“Why don’t Democrats want to know this?” the congressman asked. “Why don’t they want to know how the virus started that has disrupted our lives for now almost a full two years? Why don’t they want to know? Why don’t they want to do the investigation?”

He pledged that if Republicans take control of the House in November, they will “spend a great deal of time getting to the bottom of” the origins of the coronavirus.

A version of this article originally appeared on Patriot Project.

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