The former head of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, has said Dr. Anthony Fauci briefed world leaders in the spring of 2020 that the coronavirus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.
Dr. Gottlieb told Face the Nation on Sunday that a senior official in former President Donald Trump’s administration told him there was some suspicion about the strain of coronavirus and that it ‘looked unusual.’
It led Fauci to consider the possibility that it had leaked from a research laboratory in Wuhan.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he was told Dr. Fauci had briefed world leaders on the possibility that the novel coronavirus leaked from a lab
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb says he was informed by a senior Trump administration official in spring that Dr. Fauci briefed world health leaders in Europe “that this could have been a potential lab leak…so those discussions were going on.” pic.twitter.com/2OlTg8bMof
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) June 6, 2021
‘I was told at that time, back in the spring, that Dr. Fauci had gone over to a meeting of world health leaders in Europe and actually briefed them on the information that they were looking at, that this could have been a potential lab leak, that this strain looked unusual. So those discussions were going on,’ Gottlieb explained on Sunday on CBS.
‘I was told that by a senior official in the Trump administration. I have reconfirmed that conversation that happened at the time contemporaneously with that meeting over a year ago. I think early on, when they looked at the strain, they had suspicions. And it takes time to do that analysis, and that dispelled some of those suspicions,’ he added.
Gottlieb concluded by saying that it was a mistake to only look at the virus from a scientific perspective.
‘The broader issue is we look at these things through the lens of science, and not necessarily through the lens of national security,’ Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb said a senior Trump official pointed to suspicions the strain ‘looked unusual,’ prompting Fauci to address the possibility that it had leaked from a lab
U.S. First Lady Jill Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci visited a vaccination clinic at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem
First lady Jill Biden, center, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, left, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speak to a worker as they visit a vaccine clinic at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in the Harlem neighborhood of New York on Sunday
‘A scientific mindset looks at the virus and the virus’ behavior and draws a conclusion. A national security assessment looks at that and then looks at the behavior of the Chinese government, the behavior of the lab, other evidence around the lab, including the infections we now know took place, and that changes the overall assessment.’
Although most experts still believe the virus was transmitted from a bat to some other species of animal, then to humans, its origins remain unproven.
The Wuhan lab was famed for conducting tests on bat coronaviruses, with experts who support the leak theory saying the same city being ground zero for the outbreak is too great a coincidence to ignore.
Fauci is now facing accusations that accuse him of mishandling and downplaying the theory the virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan suggesting he was not forthcoming about the evidence for the theory.
The idea the coronavirus escaped from a Wuhan lab was at best a ‘fringe theory’ until recently, when the Biden administration ordered a review
The Wuhan lab was famed for conducting tests on bat coronaviruses, with experts who support the leak theory saying the same city being ground zero for the outbreak is too great a coincidence to ignore. (file photo from inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology)
Last week, a trove of Fauci’s emails were released which span the early days of the pandemic.
In one email, from Feb. 1 of last year, Kristian Andersen, a researcher at the Scripps Research Institute, wrote to Fauci, the longtime director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about ongoing efforts to decipher the origin of the novel coronavirus.
At the time, the lab leak hypothesis was largely dismissed by experts. It has recently gained traction, though the origins of the virus remain unknown.
‘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,’ Andersen wrote.
He said he and his colleagues ‘all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory. But,’ he added, ‘we have to look at this much more closely and there are still further analyses to be done, so those opinions could still change.’
Gottlieb defended Fauci by highlighting the point the virus originated one of two ways: Either occurring in nature such as from a bat, or man made in a laboratory
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 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.’
Andersen, the scientist who wrote the ‘engineered’ email, has tried to offer further explanation.
‘As I have said many times, we seriously considered a lab leak a possibility. However, significant new data, extensive analyses, and many discussions led to the conclusions in our paper. What the email shows, is a clear example of the scientific process,’ he tweeted amid the backlash.
Gottlieb said there was nothing that alarmed him and ‘no evidence of a coverup’ found in the trove of Fauci’s emails that were released last week
‘It´s just science,’ he later added. ‘Boring, I know, but it´s quite a helpful thing to have in times of uncertainty.’
Speaking about the emails on Sunday, Gottlieb said there was nothing that concerned him about their contents.
‘I didn’t think there was anything remarkable in those emails. I don’t think there was anything that Tony said that expressed any ill intent, and nothing that was new,’ Gottlieb replied, explaining that there had always been two theories on the origins of the virus but there had been little real evidence to support either one.
‘We have other information now that fits into this picture. The science is one piece of information, but there is a lot of other information that points in the direction that this could have come out of a lab, that we need to have a broader view about the potential risk that this was a lab leak,’ Gottlieb continued.
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.’