CNN’s Jake Tapper dismissed as “misinformation” Senator Rand Paul’s suggestion that Dr. Anthony Fauci misled Congress about U.S. funding for gain-of-function research, during a segment on The Lead on Tuesday evening.
In a Senate hearing earlier that day, Paul accused Dr. Anthony Fauci of lying to Congress in May when he said the National Institutes of Health had never funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. (Gain-of-function research involves making viruses more contagious or deadly in a laboratory.) Fauci vehemently denied the allegation.
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“I don’t want to get into the details of what Senator Paul was attacking there and all that,” Tapper told guest Dr. Paul Offit, Professor of Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “But the bigger picture here…we keep seeing this, Trump allies in Congress, in governors’ offices, in the media, trying to make Fauci a COVID bogeyman.”
Offit commented that the Trump administration had begun “attacks on science-based agencies.”
“What’s so sad about this,” Offit said, is that “Dr. Fauci is a dedicated public servant and he represents the best of science, meaning…he’s open-minded enough to potentially change recommendations if need be.”
Tapper added, “I’m not suggesting in any way that [Fauci] can’t be criticized, but there’s just this effort to, really just undermine everything he ever says, almost accusing him of crimes.”
During the Senate hearing on Tuesday, Paul noted a paper by WIV scientists, “Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus,” which describes producing “chimeric” coronaviruses, or coronaviruses altered by man. The paper credits the NIH as a source of funding.
Paul argued that the research chronicled in the paper “explicitly matches the definition of gain-of-function research.”
Fauci denied this, saying “this paper was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain-of-function.”
“Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly,” Fauci added.
Dr. Richard Ebright, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University and biosafety expert, endorsed that interpretation in a previous interview with National Review in which he explained that the paper fits the NIH’s own definition of gain-of-function research.
‘The Wuhan lab used NIH funding to construct novel chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses able to infect human cells and laboratory animals,” he said. “This is high-risk research that creates new potential pandemic pathogens (i.e., potential pandemic pathogens that exist only in a lab, not in nature). This research matches — indeed epitomizes — the definition of ‘gain of function research of concern’ for which federal funding was ‘paused’ in 2014-2017.”