As COVID-19 was spreading and being used to call for lockdowns across the United States in early 2020, the scientific journal Nature Medicine published a paper on March 17 titled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2.”
The paper was viewed over 5.7 million times online, and cited by more than 2,000 media outlets, according to The Intercept.
Unredacted NIH records detail early efforts to rule out lab origin of Covid — my latest for @theintercept and @thenation. It took more than a year of #FOIA litigation to obtain the documents featured in this story: https://t.co/U1Lqq4ZgHS
— Jimmy Tobias (@JamesCTobias) January 19, 2023
ABC News, for instance, ran an article on March 27 titled “Sorry, Conspiracy Theorists. Study Concludes Covid-19 ‘Is Not a Laboratory Construct.’”
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.
In addition to Fauci, who at the time was director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar, Scripps Research’s Kristian Andersen, and Dutch Virologist Ron Fouchier were also assembled to investigate “early evidence” on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to 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 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.
One of the paper’s authors, Robert Garry, is quoted saying, “There’s a lot of speculation and conspiracy theories that went to a pretty high level, so we felt it was important to get a team together to examine evidence of this new coronavirus to determine what we could about the origin.”
What that quote didn’t convey was the fact that Garry and several of the paper’s other co-authors were initially suspicious that SARS-CoV-2 may have emerged from a lab. They shared their suspicions with Fauci, Collins, and others in late January and early February 2020, during the period of time intense and confidential deliberations about the origin of the virus were taking place.
The peer-reviewed paper proved to be hugely influential. Dr. Francis Collins, then the director of NIH, announced its findings in a post on the agency’s website in late March 2020.
When asked during an April 17 press briefing at the White House about concerns that SARS-CoV-2 had come out of a lab in China, Dr. Anthony Fauci referenced the paper, describing its conclusions and calling its authors “a group of highly qualified evolutionary virologists.”
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.
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