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Back in 2020, the Trump administration linked the COVID virus to a lab leak in Wuhan. Dr. Anthony Fauci was very quick to come out and shoot it down. He adamantly denied the COVID vaccine was “man made,” and reiterated his theory that the virus occurred in nature and then “jumped species.” In reality, Fauci was still touting the silly “bat soup/wet market” theory.
This is an ABC story from May, 2020. The chyron reads: “Top doctor insists the virus started in nature.”
Today, the world knows Fauci’s theory was wrong. Even the US Energy Department finally admitted that a “lab leak” is the most likely source of the outbreak.
Of course, most of us knew this way back when, but the media and Fauci drove the “happened in nature” theory full speed ahead, and straight into the ground.
But that theory nearly went off the rails in 2021, when Buzzfeed released a cache of Fauci emails. There was one email in particular that garnered a lot of attention. It was dated January 31, 2020, and came from a highly respected infectious-disease expert by the name of Kristian Andersen. Mr. Andersen told Fauci that he believed the COVID virus appeared to be “man made.”
Andersen noted that “a really small part” of sars-CoV-2’s genome had “unusual features.” Its spike—the crucial bit of surface protein that a coronavirus uses to invade a cell—appeared able to bind tightly to a human-cell receptor known as ace2. This, Andersen told me, “means that it’s more effective at infecting human cells.” The other significant trait, a rare insertion in the genome of twelve nucleotides, called a furin cleavage site, might also increase the virus’s transmissibility, and lower the species barrier, allowing the virus to jump more easily to humans. “One has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered,” he wrote. There was much more data to analyze, he continued, “so those opinions could still change.”
Oh, and change it did…
Three days later, on February 4th, Andersen’s entire theory flipped on its head.
In an e-mail to a totally different group of scientists, which was recovered by U.S. “Right to Know,” an investigative group, Andersen wrote, “The main crackpot theories going around at the moment relate to this virus being somehow engineered with intent and that is demonstrably not the case.”
What a remarkable change of heart in such a short amount of time. Many wondered what happened and how his own theory could’ve been disputed so quickly – and that’s where the New York Times comes in, and provides a shameless “cover story” for Mr. Andersen, and more importantly, Dr. Fauci.
The New York Times piece started out this way:
Among the thousands of pages of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci’s emails released recently by BuzzFeed News, a short note from Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., has garnered a lot of attention.
Over the past year, Dr. Andersen has been one of the most outspoken proponents of the theory that the coronavirus originated from a natural spillover from an animal to humans outside of a lab. But in the email to Dr. Fauci in January 2020, Dr. Andersen hadn’t yet come to that conclusion. He told Dr. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, that some features of the virus made him wonder whether it had been engineered, and noted that he and his colleagues were planning to investigate further by analyzing the virus’s genome.
And then the NYT quickly turned into “janitors” and started mopping up the mess Mr. Andersen made. They actually interviewed Mr. Andersen who debunked his own “passionate” theory:
Much has been made of your email to Dr. Fauci in late January 2020, shortly after the coronavirus genome was first sequenced. You said, “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.”
Can you explain what you meant?
At the time, based on limited data and preliminary analyses, we observed features that appeared to potentially be unique to SARS-CoV-2. We had not yet seen these features in other related viruses from natural sources, and thus were exploring whether they had been engineered into the virus.
Those features included a structure known as the furin cleavage site that allows the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to be cleaved by furin, an enzyme found in human cells, and another structure, known as the receptor binding domain, that allowed the virus to anchor to the outside of human cells via a cell-surface protein known as ACE2.
The Times wanted to make sure they left no stone unturned so the jumped head-first into the deep end of the evolutionary pool:
You also said you found the virus’s genome to be “inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”
This was a reference to the features of SARS-CoV-2 that we identified based on early analyses that didn’t appear to have an obvious immediate evolutionary precursor. We hadn’t yet performed more in-depth analyses to reach a conclusion, rather were sharing our preliminary observations.
The New York times now quickly gets to the meat and potatoes of the matter – Mr. Anderson’s sudden change of heart, after being so incredibly passionate about his belief in the lab theory:
In March, you and other scientists published the Nature Medicine paper saying that “we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.” Can you explain how the research changed your view?
The features in SARS-CoV-2 that initially suggested possible engineering were identified in related coronaviruses, meaning that features that initially looked unusual to us weren’t.
Many of these analyses were completed in a matter of days, while we worked around the clock, which allowed us to reject our preliminary hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 might have been engineered, while other “lab”-based scenarios were still on the table.
Yet more extensive analyses, significant additional data and thorough investigations to compare genomic diversity more broadly across coronaviruses led to the peer-reviewed study published in Nature Medicine. For example, we looked at data from coronaviruses found in other species, such as bats and pangolins, which demonstrated that the features that first appeared unique to SARS-CoV-2 were in fact found in other, related viruses.
Overall, this is a textbook example of the scientific method where a preliminary hypothesis is rejected in favor of a competing hypothesis after more data become available and analyses are completed.
And ironically, we now know that his first hypothesis was actually correct and the second one was wrong, even after all that extra so-called “data” he supposedly reviewed.
But what left may people baffled was why would such a well-respected man just “flip flop” so quickly?
Well, the answer to that question probably won’t shock you.
It turns out that top virologists who changed their tune on COVID-19 “lab leak” theory received millions in NIH grants, courtesy of Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Millions in grants – that could motivate a lot of researchers to sing a new tune, couldn’t it?
Leading virologists who initially raised concerns about the possibility of COVID-19 leaking from a lab in Wuhan, China, before later changing their tune on the issue oversaw projects that received tens of millions of dollars from the National Institutes of Health under Dr. Anthony Fauci, records show.
Dr. Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Institute and Tulane University’s Dr. Robert Garry raised concerns in 2020 to Fauci that there could be legitimacy to COVID-19 leaking from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has received funds from the NIH-backed EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit group. These same virologists, who later rejected the leak hypothesis, led research projects that pocketed over $25.2 million between 2020 and 2022 from the NIH, according to federal grant data reviewed by the Washington Examiner.
The Examiner piece goes on to suggest that Fauci was rewarding anyone who backtracked and supported his “happened in nature” theory.
“Since changing their tune and publicly dismissing a potential lab leak following secretive conversations with Anthony Fauci, Garry and Andersen have received tens of millions in new taxpayer funds from the NIAID [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] for wasteful, deadly, and dangerous virus experiments on primates and other animals,” Justin Goodman, the vice president of advocacy and public policy at the White Coat Waste Project, a federal spending watchdog, told the Washington Examiner.
“Given all of the waste, fraud and abuse we’ve exposed at NIAID since early 2020, it wouldn’t be surprising if gain-of-function’s ‘funding father’ Anthony Fauci was rewarding his fellow animal experimenters for their compliance and complicity in covering up what really happened at the Wuhan lab.”
The New York Times was willing to place what was left of their shaky reputation on the line in order to provide cover for Fauci, and his wildly out-of-touch “nature” theory.. and it ended up backfiring in their faces.
Was it worth it?
You can’t help but wonder what The New York Times received for their dedicated service to Dr. Fauci.
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