“Yes, I’m very confident in Dr. Fauci,” Biden said on Friday after a press briefing in Delaware.
The president had left the briefing room but poked his head back in through a doorway after a reporter shouted a question about whether he has confidence in Fauci.
Asked at a press conference later in the day whether she could imagine any circumstance in which Biden would fire Fauci, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “No.”
The administration is standing by Fauci, at least so far, after a trove of the doctor’s emails were released this week under Freedom of Information Act requests by media outlets.
The emails, which were from early months of the COVID-19 outbreak, raised controversies on such issues as Fauci’s efforts to dismiss speculation that the virus may have leaked from a Chinese lab and private comments on mitigation measures – such as mask-wearing and school closings – that conflicted with some of his public directives.
Psaki defended Fauci on Thursday, telling reporters, “He’s been an undeniable asset in our country’s pandemic response, but it’s obviously not that advantageous for me to relitigate the substance of emails from 17 months ago.”
Even before the email bombshells, some Republican lawmakers, such as Representatives Warren Davidson (Ohio) and Guy Reschenthaler (Pennsylvania), were calling for Fauci to be fired over such issues as his flip-flopping on pandemic directives and alleged government investment in gain-of-function virus research.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who said last month that Fauci lied to Congress about US funding of research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, reacted to the email release by saying the doctor should be fired.
“If it turns out that the virus came from the Wuhan lab, which it looks like it did, there’s a great deal of culpability in that he was a big supporter of the funding, but he also was a big supporter to this day of saying we can trust the Chinese on this,” Paul said on Wednesday in a Fox News interview.
Are Fauci’s days numbered? pic.twitter.com/bszGs7aRxL
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) June 3, 2021
Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) on Friday joined the GOP chorus calling for Fauci’s departure.
“Anthony Fauci’s recently released emails and investigative reporting about COVID-19 origins are shocking,” he said.
“The time has come for Fauci to resign and for a full congressional investigation into the origins of COVID-19 – and into any and all efforts to prevent a full accounting.”
Hawley added that Americans deserve to know whether government officials tried to stop efforts to determine the origins of COVID-19.
“And Congress must also find out to what extent to what extent Fauci’s NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease) was involved in financing research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” he said.
Anthony Fauci’s recently released emails and investigative reporting about #COVID19 origins are shocking. The time has come for Fauci to resign and for a full congressional investigation into the origins of #COVID19 – and into any and all efforts to prevent a full accounting
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) June 4, 2021
CNN reported late last month that the Biden administration shut down a State Department investigation into whether the virus leaked from the Wuhan lab.
The probe began last fall, under former President Donald Trump. On May 26, the day after the CNN report, Biden ordered US intelligence agencies to try to pinpoint the origin of the outbreak within 90 days.