In another extraordinary confrontation in Congress today, chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci told Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky: “I have not lied before Congress, I have never lied. Certainly not before Congress. CASE CLOSED.”
The Republican politician attacked the career scientist over the issue of “gain of function research”, a canard among those who blame China for the coronavirus pandemic and subscribe to the theory – not counted out by official sources – that Covid-19 may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan.
“Viruses that in nature only infect animals were manipulated in the Wuhan lab to gain the function of infecting humans,” Paul said at a hearing of the Senate health, education, labor and pensions committee. “This research fits the definition of the research that the [National Institutes of Health] said was subject to the pause in 2014 to 2017, a pause in funding on gain of function, but the NIH failed to recognize this, defines it away, and it never came under any scrutiny.”
Referring to previous clashes with Fauci, Paul added: “Dr Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of 11 May where you claimed that the NIH never funded gain of function research?”
Fauci said: “Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement. This paper that you’re referring to was judged by qualified staff, up and down the chain, as not being gain of function.”
Things deteriorated from there.
“Senator Paul,” Fauci said, “you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that, officially, you do not know what you are talking about.”
Paul said: “The evidence is pointing that [the virus] came from the lab, there will be responsibility for those who funded the lab, including yourself.”
Fauci said he “totally resent[ed] the lie that you are now propagating, Senator”, prompting Paul to say: “No one’s saying those viruses caused the pandemic. We’re saying they are gain of function viruses because they’re rare animal viruses that became more transmissible in human and you funded it.”
Visibly angry, Fauci responded: “You are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individuals. I totally resent that. If anybody is lying here, Senator, it is you.”
Paul’s time was up but Tina Smith, a Democratic senator from Minnesota, spotted a chance for a political closer and asked Fauci if “there [was] anything more that you would like to say to counteract these attacks on your integrity that we’ve all just witnessed”.
“Well, Senator,” said Fauci, “thank you … this is a pattern that Senator Paul has been doing now at multiple hearings based on no reality. He was talking about gain of function, this has been evaluated multiple times by qualified people to not fall under the gain of function definition.
“I have not lied before Congress. I have never lied. Certainly not before Congress. CASE CLOSED.”