Fauci dismissed the lab-leak theory early in the pandemic, repeatedly stating that the virus most likely occurred naturally. However, he acknowledged that there is no data to support or disprove a lab leak and that the question may never be firmly answered.
His latest comments come after the Energy Department released a report to the White House and top members of Congress saying that it had “low confidence” that the virus emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Fauci noted that the DOE’s conclusion shows there’s “a dichotomy of opinion” among experts and doesn’t firmly answer the question.
Fauci also stated that four other intelligence agencies do not agree with the lab-leak theory. He pointed out that evolutionary virologists have published peer-reviewed articles that suggest the virus likely jumped from animals to people at a live-animal market in China.
Regarding the state of the pandemic after three years, Fauci noted that the current rate of 400 to 500 COVID-related deaths in the US every day is “unacceptably high” and reflects low vaccination rates, failure to use masks in crowded indoor places, and not testing when symptoms are present.
Republicans have claimed that Fauci rejected the lab-leak theory to cover up his former agency’s involvement in funding gain-of-function research, in which scientists make viruses more transmissible and harmful. Despite his denials, the National Institutes of Health admitted in October 2021 to funding gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan facility.
The Biden administration has defended Fauci, with White House press secretary Karine-Jean-Pierre saying that attacks by Republicans “have been counterproductive, they have not been helpful.”