Fauci Was Part Of Group Assembled To ‘Disprove’ Lab Leak Theory, Emails Show

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Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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Dr. Anthony Fauci was part of a group of scientists who, according to at least one of them, were working to “disprove” the lab-leak theory in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, emails show.

Fauci, who at the time was director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, worked alongside others, including National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar, Scripps Research’s Kristian Andersen and Dutch Virologist Ron Fouchier to investigate early evidence on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, emails obtained by journalist Jimmy Tobias revealed. On Feb. 8, 2020, Andersen wrote in an email that the group’s work was “focused on trying to disprove any type of lab theory.”

Andersen ultimately became the first author listed on the paper “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2,” the most influential paper published about the origins of COVID-19 during the early stages of the pandemic. The paper was cited by more than 2,000 media outlets and viewed nearly six million times online, according to The Intercept.

“Proximal Origin” promoted a natural origin theory of COVID-19 and was co-authored by several scientists who were in communication with Fauci in the weeks leading up to its publish date. Several members of the group were at first supportive of the lab-leak theory before abruptly changing their course. By the end of things, Andersen was claiming the group existed to debunk the theory all along.

“Our main work over the last couple of weeks has been focused on trying to disprove any type of lab theory, but we are at a crossroad where the scientific evidence isn’t conclusive enough to say that we have high confidence in any of the three main theories considered,” he wrote in that Feb. 8 email to the other scientists.

Andersen also initially opposed publishing a paper on the subject, but later informed Fauci and others that Nature Medicine had accepted “Proximal Origin” for publication. “Nice job on the paper,” Fauci replied. (RELATED: House Republicans Demand NIH Not Destroy Docs On COVID-19 Origins)

Some scientists who spoke to The Intercept said the evolution of views exhibited in the emails represent the scientific process at work, but others questioned why some of the researchers flipped their stances so quickly. Some, like Andersen and Robert Garry of Tulane University, had received large NIH grants for their research in the preceding years. Others, like Fouchier, were always critical of the lab-leak theory. Fouchier is notorious in the virology world for conducting dangerous research enhancing the pathogenicity of H5N1.

The email exchanges were obtained in November by Tobias after a roughly year-long legal battle with NIH, which had initially redacted vast quantities of the documents.