Sen. John Kennedy has slammed Dr. Anthony Fauci for claiming COVID-19 jumped directly from an animal to its first human host and charged that the top doctor needs to address evidence supporting the theory that the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The Louisiana senator, 69, spoke in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News on Wednesday hours after Fauci appeared on MSNBC to insist that he had always been open to the lab leak theory.
Kennedy said: ‘Every time I am asked about Dr. Fauci, I say the same thing. I know Dr. Fauci. I like Dr. Fauci. I respect Dr. Fauci. But Dr. Fauci needs to cut the crap. This is not about Dr. Fauci,’ Kennedy said.
‘It’s not about his feelings. I am sorry if his feelings were hurt. Maybe he ought to buy an emotional support pony. We are not debating dance moves on TikTok here.’
Sen. John Kennedy has slammed Dr. Anthony Fauci for claiming COVID-19 originated in an animal
‘Dr. Fauci gave a lot of U.S. taxpayer money to the Wuhan lab for Chinese scientists to research bat coronaviruses,’ Kennedy claimed to Fox News.
‘Neither Dr. Fauci nor any of his people can guarantee us that the Chinese scientists didn’t use that money to do gain of function research and turn a normal virus into a super-charged virus.’
He added: ‘They were not monitored. Dr. Fauci’s people did not monitor the lab. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.’
Kennedy then cited an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal in which Dr. Steven Quay and Richard Muller claim that ‘science suggests a Wuhan lab leak.’
In that article, Quay and Muller wrote: ‘Since 1992 there have been at least 11 separate experiments adding a special sequence to the same location. The end result has always been supercharged viruses.’
It was not immediately clear from where that information provided by Quay and Muller came.
Kennedy said: ‘Since 1992, there have been 11 different experiments widely reported in in which scientists throughout the world have taken a normal virus and turned it into a super-charged virus.’
The senator then noted that a number of lab accidents have already led to human infections, including the 1977 H1N1 flu pandemic that killed more than 700,000 people.
Kennedy also charged that Fauci needs to address evidence supporting the theory that the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology
‘China has a history of lab leaks. 1977, 2004 and 2019. Since Day 1, Dr. Fauci and his expert friends have told us, look, the virus occurred naturally. It jumped from a bat to a host and then to human beings,’ Kennedy said.
‘Well, it’s been a year. Where is the proof? Where is the smoking bat? Do you really think if China could prove this virus occurred naturally in nature it would withhold that evidence? No it would scream it from the rooftop to get the world off its back.’
He added: ‘Dr. Fauci needs to address it,’ referring to evidence that points to the lab leak theory, such as COVID-19’s genetic sequence.
‘He needs to hit these things head on. Otherwise, it’s going to undermine public health. People’s confidence in public health and the American people are going to end up trusting Dr. Pepper more than Dr. Fauci,’ Kennedy said.
Claims the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab had been laughed off by many as conspiracy theories until recently when researchers at top universities like Harvard and Cambridge suggested in a letter that the ‘hypotheses’ cannot be ruled out until there is more evidence.
Last month, it was also reported that three workers at the Wuhan Insitutute of Virology fell seriously-ill with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, months before China revealed the existence of the virus.
The senator’s comments come as more scientists and lawmakers have started to push that the lab leak theory remains credible among growing skepticism of the theory that COVID-19 originated in bats before spreading to humans through an intermediary species.
Claims the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab had been laughed off as conspiracy theories until recently
Fauci, speaking with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Wednesday, had said: ‘It’s very dangerous because a lot of what you’re seeing as attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science. Because all of the things that I have spoken about, consistently from the very beginning, have bene fundamentally based on science.’
‘Sometimes those things were inconvenient truths for people and there was pushback against me. So if you are trying to get at me as a public health official and a scientist, you are attacking not only me, Dr. Anthony Fauci, you are attacking science,’ Fauci said.
Kennedy then went through his reasoning for why he believes COVID-19 may have spread from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, referencing the controversial grant the National Institute of Health had approved which provided some money to the lab.
In 2014, the NIH awarded a $3.7 million grant to EcoHealth Alliance, which is based in the United States, to study the risk of coronaviruses emerging from bats. EcoHealth Alliance in turn distributed nearly $600,000 of that funding to its collaborator, the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Critics have claimed that recent troves of emails between Fauci and other top officials prove Fauci was concerned after the emergence of COVID-19 that the Wuhan lab was conducting gain of function research.
In gain-of-function research, scientists alter organisms and diseases to study how they could become deadlier or more transmissible. The field of virology widely relies on such studies.
Fauci, who serves as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases under the umbrella of the NIH, has denied that the NIH directly funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is about 20 miles from the Huanan Seafood Market where the first coronavirus cases are reported to have occurred
The respected and peer-reviewed multidisciplinary science journal Nature published an explainer on the two theories, providing a neutral support and criticism for both.
The authors detailed why virus investigations often take years to complete, offering a possible answer to Kennedy’s concerns that China has not yet found the bat that some experts believe caused the pandemic.
‘Outbreak-origin investigations often take years, and some culprits remain unknown. It took 14 years to nail down the origin of the SARS epidemic, which began with a virus in bats that spread to humans, most likely through civets,’ Amy Maxmen and Smriti Mallapaty wrote for Nature.
During the 2003 SARS outbreak, a total of 8,098 people worldwide became sick and 774 people died. In the United States, only eight people had laboratory evidence of SARS-CoV-1 infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chinese scientists were not able to trace the virus’ origin until late 2017, when it was determined that the virus had spread to humans through the intermediary of Asian palm civets from cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Yunnan, China.
‘To date, a complete Ebola virus has never been isolated from an animal in the region where the world’s largest outbreak occurred between 2013 and 2016,’ Maxmen and Mallapaty wrote.
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday declared that an attack on him is an attack on science ‘because all of the things that I have spoken about consistently from the very beginning have been fundamentally based on science’
Maxmen and Mallapaty noted that ‘origin investigations are complicated because outbreaks among animals that aren’t the main hosts of a particular virus, such as civets in the case of SARS, are often sporadic.’
‘Researchers must find the right animal before it dies or clears the infection. And, even if the animal tests positive, viruses found in saliva, feces or blood are often degraded, making it difficult to sequence the pathogen’s whole genome,’ they wrote.
Maxmen and Mallapaty noted that researchers in China have tested more than 80,000 wild and domesticated animals but none have been positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness.
Kennedy also called back to the Quay and Muller op-ed which noted that the COVID-19 genome contains a double CGG sequence that ‘has never been found naturally’ and ‘is suppressed naturally’ though ‘the opposite is true in laboratory work.’
‘Yes, it could have happened randomly, through mutations. But do you believe that?’ Quay and Muller wrote in their op-ed.
On Wednesday, Dr. Fauci also denied he tried to play down claims that the virus was genetically engineered in a Chinese laboratory while speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Health event.
Jonathan Rockoff, WSJ Health and Medicine Editor, asked him: ‘Did you downplay the possibility that the virus came from a lab in China, for political reasons?’
Fauci answered: ‘Well absolutely not, and lets go back and talk about that. That’s honestly an accusation that I have to tell you, mildly, is preposterous.’
‘Right from the very beginning, when there was an issue of some people who looked at the virus and said maybe it might actually have been manipulated.’
He added: ‘And what we did is that they mentioned it to me, I called together a group of people and said ‘Let’s take a look at this, make sure, get some virologic evolutionary biologizes together to take a look at it.’
Fauci said that top scientists had a discussion and some said that the SARS-CoV-2 looked like a virus that was manipulated and could have leaked.
‘Most of the people thought – all of us were thinking at the time – that it was very likely a natural evolution. But we never ruled out the possibility, and we were really open about it. It wasn’t like we were trying to hide anything,’ Fauci said.
Fauci, who has at numerous times defended his support for the theory SARS-CoV-2 spread from animals to humans, further expanded on his reasoning on Wednesday.
‘The reason we felt besides the molecular makeup of the virus, that it was a jumping species from an animal to a human, is the historically we have such experience over decades and decades of that’s how viruses get into the human population, by the animal-human interface,’ Fauci said.
Last February, during the emergence of the pandemic, The Lancet published a letter from a group of 27 prominent public health scientists that pushed back on suggestions that the virus had come from the Wuhan lab.
‘The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its origins. We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,’ that letter reads.
Scientists largely stood behind the zoonotic theory until last month, Stanford University microbiologist David Relman and the University of Washington virologist Jesse Bloom organized the letter published in the journal Science and signed by 18 prominent biologists from universities like Harvard and Cambridge.
The letter reads that ‘yet more investigation is still needed to determine the origin of the pandemic.’
‘Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable. Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks,’ the letter reads.
The letter blasts the World Health Organization and China for their recent joint study investigating the origins of COVID-19, saying that the theory it came from the lab was ‘not given balanced consideration’ to the theory it came from natural spillover.