Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about himself in the third-person as he sought to defend himself from an onslaught of attacks to his reputation on Wednesday.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily, the embattled director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases tried to push back against mounting criticism over claims he changed his stance on masks and helped fund the Wuhan Institute of Virology Lab, where experts now believe COVID-19 originated.
‘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.
‘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.’
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday declared that an attack on him is an attack on science ‘because all of the things that I have spoken about consistently from the very beginning have been fundamentally based on science’
The comments come as Republican legislators ramp up their attacks against the director of the NIAID after Buzzfeed News published thousands of his emails since the coronavirus pandemic began last year, which critics claim shows him flip-flopping on the issues.
In one email, he told a woman who was traveling in late February 2020 that she does not need to wear a mask.
‘Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected, rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection,’ he wrote in the leaked email.
‘The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out the virus, which is small enough to pass through the material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you.’
‘I do not recommend that you wear a mask, particularly since you are going to a very low-risk location.’
The comments come amid claims that Fauci flip-flopped on his stance on masks, claiming in an email to a woman in February 2020 that they are ‘not really effective in keeping out the virus’
In Wednesday’s interview, Fauci said he was acting on the information he had at the time, when officials believed there was a mask shortage, people were not sure masks would work outside of a hospital setting and were unaware COVID-19 could be spread through asymptomatic carriers.
Fauci said the ‘entire CDC was saying the same thing’ at the time, but eventually data came back and showed that mask-wearing helped reduce the spread and more than half of the coronavirus cases in the United States were being spread though asymptomatic contact.
‘That’s when we said we’ve got to get people to wear masks,’ he said.
‘You’ve got to be guided by the science and the current data,’ Fauci said, noting: ‘People want to fire me or put me in jail for what I’ve done – namely follow the science. It’s preposterous.’
Fauci has also come under scrutiny for a $600,000 grant the NIAID gave the Wuhan Institute of Virology to study the risk that bat coronaviruses could infect humans under Fauci’s leadership.
He tried defend the grant in a congressional hearing last month, saying the money was meant to be used to ‘study the animal-human interface, to do surveillance and to determine if these bat viruses were even capable of’ infecting humans.
He cited comments made by Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, who said that the American tax dollars that went to the Wuhan lab, where officials now believe COVID-19 originated, was not approved for gain-of-function research, which is research that involves modifying a virus to make it more infectious among humans.
But, Collins said, the National Institute of Health would not be aware of other experiments being done at the lab.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is one of only a handful in the world that is cleared to handle Class 4 pathogens — dangerous viruses that pose a high risk of person-to-person transmission. Recently, Fauci admitted granting the lab money to study the risk that bat coronaviruses could infect humans
In one of the leaked emails, it appeared Fauci was warned as early as January 31 by another infectious disease expert, Kristian G. Andersen, that the virus could have leaked from the lab and been altered.
In the email, Andersen referenced a Science magazine article about how researchers around the world were racing to share ‘full sequences of the virus from patients’ to understand how it related to viruses found in animals.
‘The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered,’ he wrote.
At the time, the lab leak hypothesis was largely dismissed by many experts. It has recently gained traction.
Andersen said he and his team found that ‘the genome [is] inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.
‘But we have to look at this much more closely and there are still further analyses to be done, so those options could still change,’ he added.
By the next month, it turned out, they had.
He and his colleagues published an article in Nature Medicine in which they concluded that it was ‘improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus.’
In May, Andersen was referenced in a New York Times article about scientists calling into more investigations into the origins of the virus.
On Sunday, Anderson’s Twitter account was deactivated.
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
Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, has also claimed that Fauci told world leaders in the spring of 2020 that he thought the virus may have escaped from the lab.
‘I think early on, when they looked at the strain, they had suspicions,’ Gottlieb recalled Sunday on CBS Face the Nation, speaking of US scientists. ‘And it takes time to do that analysis, and that dispelled some of those suspicions.’
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is one of only a handful in the world that is cleared to handle Class 4 pathogens — dangerous viruses that pose a high risk of person-to-person transmission.
It is located only a few miles from the Huanan wet market, where scientists say the first cluster of infections were officially reported, and scientists in the lab were reportedly conducting experiments on bats before the pandemic began.
Three researchers from the institute sought medical care in November 2019, before the virus began to spread, according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is about 20 miles from the Huanan Seafood Market where the first coronavirus cases are reported to have occurred
In another email, Fauci was thanked by the head of a nonprofit that helped fund research at China´s Wuhan Institute of Virology, ‘for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin,’ which he said ‘will help dispel the myths being spun around the virus´ origins.
The author, Peter Daszak, was a member of the World Health Organization team that visited the lab as part of an investigation into the origins of the virus when the pandemic began, which has been widely criticized for its lack of transparency.
The team’s report, written in part by Chinese scientists, was repeatedly delayed, as China refused to give the WHO team raw data on the outbreak.
It wrote in its final report, which was co-authored by Chinese scientists, that the virus could have been imported on frozen meat.
The lab leak theory has since gained traction with a number of world leaders, including President Joe Biden, calling for an investigation into the origins of the respiratory virus.
Now, Republicans are calling for Fauci to be removed, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling for Fauci to either resign or be fired.
‘The American people don’t have trust in Dr. Fauci,’ he said on Saturday. ‘Let’s find a person we can trust… I mean we’re talking about American lives here.’
How Fauci flip-flopped on the origins of COVID
April 2020: Fauci repeatedly made public statements suggesting that that COVID was the result of an ‘unusual human-animal interface’ in a Chinese ‘wet market’ and that ‘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.’
May 2020: Still adamant that he didn’t believe the coronavirus was man-made. ‘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 an exclusive interview published May 4, 2020. ‘Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.’
Late May 2021 to early June 2021: During an event called ‘United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking,’ Fauci was asked if was ‘still confident’ that the virus evolved naturally.
‘No, actually … I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened,’ Fauci said. ‘Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out.’
He added: ‘So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus.’