Fox News host Martha MacCallum directly challenged National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins over the COVID-19 origin during a Wednesday interview.
MacCallum pointed out the fact that no intermediate animal host had yet been found for the virus and asked Collins why experts had pushed media away from the lab leak theory as they searched for the origins of the pandemic. (RELATED: ‘Wrap Up Shop And Go Home’: Dan Bongino Torches ‘Talking Head Media Buffoons’ For Bungling Lab Leak Story)
“You know, at this points, there’s still no evidence that it came from a zoonotic source,” MacCallum began. “Were you aware that there were three scientists that were ill with COVID-like symptoms in November of 2019 at the Wuhan lab?”
Collins claimed that he was aware some had fallen ill at the lab but did not know that the exact number was three.
“When you heard that, why didn’t that cause you to say, you know, we really need to find out exactly what these people had in November of 2019 and why they visited the hospital?” MacCallum pressed.
“We knew back last year that there had been some possibility of laboratory workers who had fallen ill. Most likely with the flu or some other benign illness,” Collins replied, saying that he had believed an investigation was warranted from the beginning. “Let’s just be clear here, Martha. I don’t think we know what happened in Wuhan. It is possible there was a lab leak, again, that’s an extraordinary claim. What we need then is to have an evidence-based expert-driven open investigation —”
MacCallum pushed back, arguing that experts had essentially “shot down” the lab leak theory — which was backed by former President Donald Trump and Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton — as “not being scientific and something that should be rejected.”
“Do you disagree with that?” MacCallum asked.
Collins disagreed, claiming that they were reacting to the “outrageous” suggestion that it had been an intentionally engineered bioweapon rather than the idea that it had accidentally leaked from a research lab.
“We also don’t know 100% that some version of that is not the case. There are a couple of different programs that were funded by the NIH that raise these questions,” MacCallum continued, pointing to gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses.
“Why was that work being done and why was it being done in conjunction with NIH-funded scientists?” she asked.
“We’re The National Institutes of Health,” Collins replied. “We know that bat-driven coronaviruses had caused already two major scares as far as pandemics, SARS and MERS. It would have been irresponsible for us to not understand what else might be lurking out there … I’m a little disturbed, we’re spending this time on this issue. Here we are today. We should be talking about how to put COVID-19 behind us, not going back to January 2020.”
“Doesn’t it matter where this came from? Doctor. Doctor, we have been told up and down that anybody that thinks that this was not a zoonotic virus is part of a conspiracy theory,” MacCallum continued to press Collins, noting that the Chinese had reportedly tested some 80,000 species and still did not find one animal that had carried COVID-19.
“Why is there so much basis given to that part of the story and not the lab leak part of the story?” she asked.
“Again, I think the most likely explanation is still a natural transmission,” Collins insisted.
“Why do you think that?” from MacCallum.
“Let’s be fair here. Because that’s always been the case with other coronaviruses,” Collins said. “With SARS it turned out to be a civet cat. With MRSA it was a camel. With ebola, we still don’t know what the intermediate host is. It’s not easy. Just on a historical basis, that is the most likely path that was traveled. Again, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. To claim the lab was responsible, we need to know that. I don’t think anybody, you or anybody of the others who are commenting should jump to the conclusion that that is the most likely explanation right now. We do not know that. It might be, but we don’t know.”
“I’m not jumping to any conclusions,” MacCallum pushed back, again saying that media had been steered away from the lab leak theory from the beginning. “Why were we waved off of that so early on when we’re now being told that we don’t know and we should do a thorough investigation of exactly that?”
“Martha, I deny that you were waved off of that by me,” Collins said. “I would say you were waved off of some more outrageous conspiracy theories that had really no categorical sense to them. The idea of a lab leak is never anything that I thought was impossible. I want to say that right clearly now.”