White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Sunday lectured that officials must ensure that future probes into Covid-19 origins are not tainted with political motivation or animus.
They should "keep the politics out of" those investigations, which seek to determine whether the virus emerged naturally from an animal wet market or escaped from a laboratory in China, the nation's leading immunologist told Margaret Brennan on CBS's Face the Nation.
After it was deemed a conspiracy theory for many months, the hypothesis that Covid-19 had its roots in a laboratory-associated incident gained mainstream traction. Early in the pandemic, multiple scientists urged Fauci, then NIAID director, and NIH director Francis Collins to seriously consider that the lab-leak theory was more plausible than the natural origin explanation. Fauci and Collins dismissed those scientists, according to meeting notes from a February 2020 conference call of experts.
In May 2020, Fauci told National Geographic that the disease "could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated." On Sunday, Fauci said he remains pretty convinced that the virus was born spontaneously, as the evidence to support that is "quite strong."
"They're very suspicious of anybody trying to accuse them," Fauci said of the Chinese regime. "We need to have an open dialogue with their scientists and our scientists, keep the politics out of it."
Fauci, who plans to step down from his post in December, will likely face renewed scrutiny in the next congressional term from the GOP, which captured the House in the midterms.
In August, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, speaking on behalf of Republicans in the chamber, said the GOP will hold Fauci accountable as the nation's top infectious disease expert even after he leaves government. Fauci advised the Biden administration's Covid-19 strategy and public communications for nearly two years. Republicans also plan to investigate the origins of the virus when they reclaim the House majority in January.
"All of my colleagues, keep an absolutely open mind," Fauci said on CBS. "We've got to investigate every possibility because this is too important not to do that. That's not incompatible with saying the scientific evidence still weighs much more strongly that this is a natural occurrence. You must keep your mind open that it's something other than that."
Fauci warned against antagonizing the Chinese leadership as new probes into Covid-19's origins are opened. The scientist blasted former president Trump for burning bridges of communication with China on the issue in 2020. Leveling accusations will only make the regime less likely to cooperate, Fauci suggested.
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