The theory that COVID-19 was leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China was repeatedly dismissed by officials and the media during the pandemic as conspiracy talk, though the theory has been treated as a more serious possibility in recent months.
Fauci was one of the most prominent people to dismiss the lab leak notion, though he claimed this was not the case during a Wednesday appearance on ‘CBS This Morning.’
“If you go back then, even though you lean towards feeling this is more likely a natural occurrence, we always felt that you gotta keep an open mind – all of us. We didn’t get up and start announcing it, but what we said: ‘Keep an open mind and continue to look,’” he said, adding that it’s a “distortion” for critics to say otherwise.
Dr. Fauci on COVID lab leak theory: “We’ve always said ‘keep an open mind and continue to look.’ So I think it’s a bit of a distortion to say that we deliberately suppressed that.” pic.twitter.com/20VuUBHt2Y
— The Recount (@therecount) June 16, 2021
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director and White House health advisor, however, has made numerous public statements in the past dismissing the lab leak theory.
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,” he told National Geographic in May of 2020.
Fauci similarly dismissed lab leak theories in various interviews and during White House press briefings in 2020.
Critics were quick to remind the health official of his past comments and accused him of hypocrisy, a charge he’s faced from the public for multiple positions that seemingly changed over the course of the pandemic.
“That’s some neat revisionism of the facts,” reporter Becket Adams tweeted, mentioning Fauci’s National Geographic comments.
“Fauci now claiming US officials never tried to shut down debate on COVID origins. No: they always insisted it was vital to ‘keep an open mind,’” journalist Glenn Greenwald added. “If that’s true, why did Silicon Valley monopolies ban any questioning of the zoonotic theory, citing US/WHO health officials to do so?”
And if you disagree with this, you disagree with science. https://t.co/P2K6fUFlXH
— Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) June 16, 2021
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) June 16, 2021
It’s been a few days since we’ve seen Mr Gaslight https://t.co/Oc7sygI1n8
— Sean Agnew (@seanagnew) June 16, 2021
Until last month, posts promoting the lab leak origin theory for COVID-19 could get posts flagged and removed on Facebook. Some outlets, like Politifact, had also previously dismissed the lab leak theory as “debunked,” a “fact-check” Politifact retracted last month.
In a recent interview on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe,’ Fauci said he supported investigations into the origins of COVID-19, but said many pushing the lab leak theory have been too “accusatory” toward China and claimed this attitude is non-productive.
Fauci refuses to go after China for destroying evidence & refusing to cooperate with investigators; says the U.S. shouldn’t be “accusatory” as it will make them “pull back more” pic.twitter.com/BkoFdj4c7l
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) June 3, 2021