The acting head of the White House budget office has refused to rule out sending more US money to the Wuhan lab COVID-19 is feared to have leaked from.
Acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young said she would ‘never make that commitment’ to cut all future funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
Young faced questions from lawmakers about Joe Biden‘s budget proposal during a Budget Committee hearing Wednesday, including pointed questions over the sending of federal funds to the Chinese lab.
There is a growing theory that COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan lab during research into bat coronaviruses. Some experts who support the lab leak theory believe the virus, which has so far killed 3.75 million people, is a natural one, while others claim it may have been genetically modified.
US government officials previously donated $826,000 to the lab over a five year period to help it research viruses like COVID, which is believed to have originally come from bats.
Acting head of the White House budget office Shalanda Young (above) refused Wednesday to rule out sending more US money to the Wuhan lab in which COVID-19 is suspected of being engineered and accidentally leaked
Young said she would ‘never make that commitment’ to cut all future funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China (pictured being guarded by security)
House Budget Committee ranking member Jason Smith asked Young what she was doing to ‘get to the bottom’ of the ties between US funding and the lab in Wuhan.
Smith, a Republican, said it had become ‘increasingly evident that COVID-19 originated from a lab in Wuhan, China.’
‘What are you doing to get to the bottom of the clear link between federal funding and the Wuhan lab?’ he asked Young.
The budget boss urged him to await the outcome of the 90-day investigation launched by Biden last month into whether the virus was released by the lab.
But Smith continued to push for an answer around the use of US money for such research.
‘So let me ask you this, can you commit that American dollars will never be used to fund such research going forward from this budget?’ he asked.
Young skirted around the question again and refused to confirm either way.
‘Congressman, I started my career at NIH,’ she replied.
‘I would never, you know, make that commitment, as someone who believes we need to be led by science, and we certainly need to wait [for] this review before we jump to conclusions.’
House Republicans took to Twitter to slam Young’s lack of commitment on the issue.
‘The Acting OMB Director refused to say that President Biden’s budget would NOT fund the Wuhan Institute of Virology,’ the caucus tweeted.
‘YOUR tax dollars should not be used to fund the Chinese lab where COVID-19 possibly originated from.’
Young faced questions from lawmakers about Joe Biden’s budget proposal during a Budget Committee hearing Wednesday, including pointed questions over the sending of federal funds to the Chinese lab from Jason Smith (above)
Republicans slammed the lack of commitment not to send future funds to the lab
US funding of the Wuhan Institute of Virology has come under close scrutiny in recent weeks as a growing faction of experts, a newly-seen intelligence report and leaked emails among top doctors all suggest the lab could have engineered the virus.
America’s top doctor and the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci told a House Appropriations subcommittee in late May that the US gave the lab around $600,000 over a period of five years in grants for research in bat coronaviruses.
Emails obtained by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch indicate funding topped $820,000 over six years ending in 2019.
The money was funneled to the lab via non-profit EcoHealth Alliance before funding was abruptly cut in April.
Fauci insisted the money did not go toward ‘gain of function’ research.
Such research involves taking a virus that could infect humans and making it more transmissible and/or pathogenic for humans.
‘That categorically was not done,’ he insisted.
Fauci on Wednesday defended his handling of the virus and denied trying to play down claims it may have come from a lab.
The lab leak theory has gained traction after it emerged that three workers at the Wuhan lab fell seriously-ill with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, months before China first reported the virus.
There is a growing theory that COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan lab (workers inside the lab in 2017) during research into bat coronaviruses, before being accidentally leaked and spreading worldwide – so far killing more than 3.75 million people
‘That’s honestly an accusation that I have to tell you, mildly, is preposterous,’ Fauci said at The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Health event on Wednesday.
‘Right from the very beginning, when there was an issue of some people who looked at the virus and said maybe it might actually have been manipulated.
‘And what we did is that they mentioned it to me, I called together a group of people and said “Let’s take a look at this, make sure, get some virologic evolutionary biologizes together to take a look at it.”‘
He insisted most experts believed at the time it was ‘very likely a natural evolution’ but said ‘we never ruled out the possibility’ it may have been man-made.
‘It wasn’t like we were trying to hide anything,’ he said.
Fauci also pushed back at claims he downplayed the theory for political reasons and called the criticism of him ‘attacks on science’ on MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily.
‘It’s very dangerous, because a lot of what you’re seeing as attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science because all of the things that I have spoken about consistently from the very beginning have been fundamentally based on science,’ Fauci told host Chuck Todd.
Dr. Anthony Fauci (seen on Wednesday) said last month the US gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to the lab for research
‘Sometimes those things were inconvenient truths for people, and there was pushback against me. So if you are trying to get at me as a public health official, you’re really attacking not only Dr. Anthony Fauci, you are attacking science.’
‘And anybody that looks at what is going on clearly sees that,’ Fauci concluded. ‘You have to be asleep not to see that.
‘Science and the truth are being attacked.’
Republicans are calling for Fauci to be fired over the funding and what they claim has been a flip-flopping from the top doctor over the origins of the virus.
The storm erupted in recent weeks when leaked emails surfaced between him and other virologists in the early days of the pandemic, discussing the possibility the virus was genetically modified.
Last year, at the height of the pandemic, Fauci publicly supported the theory that COVID-19 jumped naturally from animals to humans in a Chinese ‘wet market’ close to the lab.
While China has tried to insist the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have begun to contemplate the possibility it escaped from the WIV – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread
‘If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,’ he told National Geographic in May.
Fauci changed tact in May this year saying he was ‘not convinced’ any longer that the virus evolved naturally.
This week, a classified report from influential government laboratory the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory revealed that experts recommended as far back as May last year that more investigation was needed into the lab leak theory.
The report found the hypothesis of a lab leak to be plausible and its conclusions were used by the State Department as it probed the pandemic’s origins in the last months of the Trump administration, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Biden last month ordered US intelligence agencies to find answers about the virus’s origins.
US officials have accused China of not being transparent about the pandemic and the origins of the virus.
Did coronavirus originate in Chinese government laboratory?
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been collecting numerous coronaviruses from bats ever since the SARS outbreak in 2002. They have also published papers describing how these bat viruses have interacted with human cells.
US Embassy staff visited the lab in 2018 and ‘had grave safety concerns’ over the protocols which were being observed at the facility.
The lab is just a few miles from the Huanan wet market which is where the first cluster of infections erupted in Wuhan.
The market is just a few hundred yards from another lab called the Wuhan Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (WHCDC). The WHCDC kept disease-ridden animals in its labs, including some 605 bats.
Those who support the theory argue that Covid-19 could have leaked from either or both of these facilities and spread to the wet market. Most argue that this would have been a virus they were studying rather than one which was engineered.
Last year a bombshell paper from the Beijing-sponsored South China University of Technology recounted how bats once attacked a researcher at the WHCDC and ‘blood of bat was on his skin.’
The report says: ‘Genome sequences from patients were 96% or 89% identical to the Bat CoV ZC45 coronavirus originally found in Rhinolophus affinis (intermediate horseshoe bat).’
It describes how the only native bats are found around 600 miles away from the Wuhan seafood market and that the probability of bats flying from Yunnan and Zhejiang provinces was minimal.
In addition there is little to suggest the local populace eat the bats as evidenced by testimonies of 31 residents and 28 visitors.
Instead the authors point to research being carried out within 300 yards at the WHCDC.
One of the researchers at the WHCDC described quarantining himself for two weeks after a bat’s blood got on his skin, according to the report. That same man also quarantined himself after a bat urinated on him.
And he also mentions discovering a live tick from a bat – parasites known for their ability to pass infections through a host animal’s blood.
‘The WHCDC was also adjacent to the Union Hospital where the first group of doctors were infected during this epidemic,’ the report says.
‘It is plausible that the virus leaked around and some of them contaminated the initial patients in this epidemic, though solid proofs are needed in future study.’