Sen. Rand Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci spat on Tuesday after Paul accused Fauci of lying about the National Institute of Health’s role in supporting research in Wuhan, China.
During a Senate health committee about the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Paul, R-Ky., asked Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, if he was lying in a May 11 testimony before Congress in which he said the NIH “has not ever and does not now” fund gain-of-function research — which aims to increase the transmissibility of an organism to study disease — at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11, where you claimed that the NIH never funded gain-of-function research and move on?” Paul said.
Fauci sharply rejected the accusation.
“Sen. Paul, I have never lied before the Congress. And I do not retract that statement,” he said.
As cases of the novel coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, Paul indicated that the NIH and Fauci may share some blame for the COVID-19 epidemic, which has claimed the lives of 4 million people worldwide.
President Joe Biden requested the US intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” in finding the COVID-19’s likely sources in May, asking for any additional inquiries that could be needed, including specific requests for China.
Paul alleged that gain-of-function research was conducted with NIH money in the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab, citing an academic work by a Chinese scientist.
“We don’t know that it did come from the lab, but all the evidence is pointing that it came from the lab, and there will be responsibility for those who funded the lab, including yourself,” the senator said.
Fauci sought to explain that the paper Paul cited did not represent gain-of-function research and shouted at the senator to let him finish speaking as the lawmaker attempted to interject.
“Sen. Paul, you do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially, you do not know what you’re talking about,” Fauci said.
Paul accused Fauci of “obfuscating the truth” and Fauci promptly returned the accusation to the senator.
“I totally resent the lie that you are now propagating, senator,” Fauci said. “If you look at the viruses that were used in the experiments, that were given in the annual reports, that were published in the literature, it is molecularly impossible.”
Fauci went on to say that Tuesday’s comment represents “a pattern that Sen. Paul has been doing now at multiple hearings based on no reality.”
“He keeps talking about gain-of-function. This has been evaluated multiple times by qualified people to not fall under the gain-of-function definition,” he said.