Fauci Defends Funding Of EcoHealth, Dismisses Lab Leak Theory

 Authored by Eva Fu via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Anthony Fauci, the head of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), defended his agency’s decision of awarding millions of dollars to an organization that has funded risky virus research in Wuhan.

Fauci Defends Funding Of EcoHealth, Dismisses Lab Leak Theory

The New York-based nonprofit, EcoHealth Alliance, received roughly $3 million in grants from the NIAID in late September, the largest annual amount the agency has awarded the group, despite scrutiny over EcoHealth’s partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the facility that many believe may have started the pandemic.

“If something is peer-reviewed, gets a high recommendation for funding, you can’t arbitrarily decide, ‘I just don’t want to fund it’ because people don’t like them,” Fauci said in an Oct. 4 virtual webinar hosted by the University of South California’s Center for Health Journalism. “If they ever brought that to court, they could sue us and win that in a microsecond. So you’ve got to be careful.”

The new grants came just weeks after the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to which NIAID belongs, terminated an Ecohealth sub-award to the Wuhan lab. The NIH told the House Oversight Committee that the Chinese facility had twice declined their requests to hand over laboratory records so that they could review the research.

Fending Off Criticism

The Wuhan facility, during the 2018 to 2019 grant period, conducted experiments that made bat coronaviruses more lethal, which some experts said met the definition of gain-of-function research—experiments that make a virus more deadly or infectious.

Asked why he was confident that “EcoHealth is a good funding partner” despite criticism about its lack of transparency over virus research, Fauci insisted that the two were separate matters.

“It’s kind of like saying that there is a grant from an institution in the United States, that something really bad about that grant, and therefore, you shouldn’t give any funding to any other element of that institution,” he said.

You’ve got to be fair, and you’ve got to go by process, not arbitrarily deciding whether you want to fund something or not,” he added.

The new grants, though, have drawn heavy backlash from Republican lawmakers who indicated a COVID-19 origin probe would be a key priority if they win control of the House or Senate after this midterm election.

Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 3, 2021. (Hector Retamal
Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 3, 2021. (Hector Retamal /AFP via Getty Images)

In light of the new NIH grant, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) on Sept. 29 introduced a bill that seeks to stop federal funding to EcoHealth.

“Giving taxpayer money to EcoHealth to study pandemic prevention is like paying a suspected arsonist to conduct fire safety inspections,” she earlier told The Epoch Times. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, meanwhile, called it “madness.”

“EcoHealth Alliance and Peter Daszak should not be getting a dime of taxpayer funds until they are completely transparent. Period,” she said in a statement.

Fauci, who is retiring in December, said he would have “no problem” giving more testimony to a Republican-controlled Congress.

“I am a big believer in oversight,” he said.

Lab Leak Theory

Emails show that Fauci had sought to play down the lab leak theory in the early period of the pandemic. In April 2020, he told then-NIH director Francis Collins that the hypothesis is “a shiny object” that would go away in time.

Fauci, at the event, stood by his comments in the email, saying that he didn’t think he misjudged the public’s ongoing interest in the lab leak theory.

“There’s always the concern, and I have kept a completely open mind about the possibility that there may have been a lab leak,” but the “lab leak is a theory with no evidence whatsoever,” Fauci said.

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