How Dr. Fauci Lies to the Media’s Approval

by John Duffy

In early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just getting underway, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease was brought before the American public as the face of federal government’s response to the rapidly developing emergency. 

Next to the clownish behavior of then President Donald Trump, Dr. Fauci was hailed as a voice of intelligent and measured calm.  He was quickly portrayed by Brad Pitt on Saturday Night Live, who ended the sketch by removing his wig and glasses, and speaking to Dr. Fauci directly, thanking him for his service to the country in such a trying time.

For many, Dr. Fauci has been an anti-Trump.  An educated man who got to tell us over and over again just how serious COVID-19 is while Trump seemed to wish he could just hand wave the whole thing away.  For others, Dr. Fauci was seen immediately as a snake in the grass, a man out for his own fame and glory who never met a TV or magazine camera he didn’t like, and who was constantly giving contradictory guidance. 

Infamously, he first told the public that masks were of no use against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, then changed his recommendation saying that masks were vital to prevent the spread.  When asked why he first said masks were useless before changing his mind, Dr. Fauci said that he knew masks were in short supply, and he didn’t want the public buying them all up before health care workers could get a hold of them.  

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So…he lied.  That’s what that is.  It’s a lie. Regardless of his motivation, Dr. Fauci by his own admission, lied to the public, and lies have conseqences. Now, many people speculate that in fact, his original statement was the truth, and that pushing for mask mandates was more about pandemic theater and scoring political points, but that’s a discussion for another day.  What I am more concerned with is whether or not Dr. Fauci is someone who lies to the public, and if he is, how he is treated by the media as a consequence.

COVID-19 lies | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

During a senate hearing in June, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky asked Dr. Fauci if he still supported funding gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology via the National Institutes of Health.  Dr. Fauci told Senator Paul that the NIH did not then, or ever, fund gain of function research in Wuhan. 

Senator Paul accused Fauci of “parsing words,” in that Fauci was basically playing dumb about the fact that multiple grants awarded by the NIH to the non-profit organization Eco Health Alliance were then passed on to scientists at the WIV. Further, Senator Paul pressed Dr. Fauci on gain of function work done by Dr. Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina. Baric happens to be one of the world’s foremost experts on coronaviruses, and he is a longtime colleague of Dr. Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Senator Paul and Dr. Fauci went a second round at another senate hearing on July 20th, in which Senator Paul again stated that gain of function research financed by the NIH had occurred at the WIV, and Dr. Fauci gruffly and with a sassy kick of his head, responded that Senator Paul had “No idea what [he was] talking about.”  Video of the exchange was shared widely by Dr. Fauci fans who took the moment as some great dunk by the esteemed and respectable Dr. Fauci over the ill-informed right wing dullard, Senator Paul. The media jumped right on board with headlines like Vanity Fair’s, “Anthony Fauci Once Again Forced to Basically Call Rand Paul a Sniveling Moronand CNN’s “You do not know what you’re talking about’: Fauci excoriates Rand Paul.

So what are the facts of the case?  Is anyone at Vanity Fair or CNN concerned with the truth of the matter, or are firey clap-backs enough for major media markets now? Well first, let us ask, what is gain of function research?  According to this article from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy:

GOF research involves studies that enhance the pathogenicity, transmissibility, or host range of a pathogen to better understand the threat. 

The article this is pulled from was written when a three year moratorium on gain of function research with viruses of pandemic potential had just ended, back in 2017.  And according to the author, to be gain of function research, one has to be working to grant a pathogen a greater ability to spread, whether between individuals, or cells, or animal types.  That, or the work has to in some way allow a pathogen to more easily cause disease.  

So what kind of work was being done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology with NIH money that would fall under this definition?  Senator Rand Paul himself later posted a snapshot of this paper to his twitter account to back up his claims. The paper describes a five year period in which samples were taken from a cave in Yunnan Province, China (likely the Tongguan Mine, which we thoroughly discuss in our podcast “Origins: Birth of a Pandemic) and sequenced for coronaviruses.  In the paper, they not only list several of the SARS type viruses that they found, but also go on to explain:

we successfully cultured an additional novel SARSr-CoV Rs4874 from a single fecal sample using an optimized protocol and Vero E6 cells…Using the reverse genetics technique we previously developed for WIV1, we constructed a group of infectious bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones with the backbone of WIV1 and variants of S genes from 8 different bat SARSr-CoVs.

…when Vero E6 cells were respectively infected with the two successfully rescued chimeric SARSr-CoVs, WIV1-Rs4231S and WIV1-Rs7327S, and the newly isolated Rs4874, efficient virus replication was detected in all infections. To assess whether the three novel SARSr-CoVs can use human ACE2 as a cellular entry receptor, we conducted virus infectivity studies using HeLa cells with or without the expression of human ACE2. All viruses replicated efficiently in the human ACE2-expressing cells

And if you head on down to the funding statement at the bottom, you will see this:

…the National Institutes of Health (NIAID R01AI110964), the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) PREDICT program

So yes, the US government has funded the work of Dr. Shi Zhengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.  Though most of the money actually didn’t come from the NIH, some absolutely did.  The hair that is now being infintesimally split, is whether or not this work, cited by Senator Paul, counts as gain of function.  According to Dr. Fauci’s testimony, staff “up and down the chain” looked at the paper Senator Paul referenced and claimed that the work it describes is not gain of function.  Looking at what the paper says Dr. Shi and her team were doing, and comparing it to the definition of gain of function highlighted above from the Centers for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, it very much looks like the work this particular NIH grant funded at the WIV was in fact, gain of function.  Dr. Fauci, it seems, is lying.  He is lying by playing fast and loose with the definitions of words in classic political, “that depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is,” style.  

What’s worse, at that same hearing, Dr. Fauci was being asked a question by Senator Roger Marshall about some of the technical underpinnings of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Senator Marshall tried to ask if the spike protein on the virus was the same as the spike used in gain of function research conducted by Dr. Ralph Baric and Dr. Shi Zhengli back in 2015. Dr. Fauci kept acting as if he didn’t know what Senator Marshall was talking about. Now, sure, Senator Marshall’s grasp of the microbiology minutiae is definitely that of a laymen who crammed for three hours before he had his shot at asking big questions on live TV, but the fact is, expecting US senators to know the fine ins and outs of virology and to be able to articulate them expertly before being willing to answer their questions, is not reasonable. Of course they are going to trip on their words. For Dr. Fauci to just huff and puff and avoid the question because it’s not being laid out to him in the most pristine of insider jargon, is very disingenuous. It’s akin to some hoity-toity British royal pretending he cannot understand a construction worker from Boston because his vernacular isn’t the most refined of King’s English. If the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 is a big, “nothing to see here,” why avoid the question? Just set the Senator straight and move on.

When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, clearly there are important questions about how it arose that need addressing, and clearly, people in the pandemic-industrial complex like Dr. Fauci, do not want too much light shone on the NIAID, the NIH, USAID, or even the DOD for their decades financing very controversial and potentially very dangerous work, sending researchers into the dark remote places of the Earth to dig up what are otherwise sequestered animal viruses, and then having those brought back to labs in population centers where they can be tinkered with for the benefit of armies, pharmaceutical companies, and even just the budgets of laboratories, NGO’s and their staff.

And it’s crazy to me how the media picks its darlings, and refuses to apply any real scrutiny to their statements. In a sane media environment, journalists would be tearing through Dr. Fauci’s emails that have been acquired by Jason Leopold, and they would be pouring over the NIH grant documents that have been posted by Judicial Watch in an effort to build out a greater understanding of how various state and private agencies collaborate to move money around the world in pursuit of research that may be very well intentioned, but that in the end, could actually have caused the greatest pandemic since the 1918 flu. But instead it’s all team sports in headlines that could have been written by high school sophomores, glorifying dunks and our favorite popular kid owning the class nerd.

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If you care about facts, yes, Dr. Ralph Baric and Dr. Shi Zhengli back in 2015 added a spike protein to a SARS 1 backbone and made a chimeric virus that could infect human airway tissues. Dr. Shi Zhengli had collected hundreds of coronaviruses from a cave in Mojiang, including the closest known relative to SARS-CoV-2 (RaTG13) and her team didn’t enter most of the samples in public databases like GenBank. And the databases of the WIV went offline on September 12th, 2019. This trail needs to be followed, far more than we need to “destroy,” our domestic political rivals on Twitter.