Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man many consider to be the public face of the U.S. government’s fight against the COVID virus, now stands accused of violating a federal law prohibiting certain government employees from engaging in activities and making statements intended to influence the electorate.
Protect the Public’s Trust, a government watchdog organization, said in a June 30 filing that Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, ran afoul of Hatch Act restrictions during an October 30, 2020 interview with The Washington Post in which he “intimated that the state of the nation’s public health outlook could be directly linked to the two candidates’ diverse approaches” to combating the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The virus, which some allege was created in a bacteriological research facility in the People’s Republic of China, spread rapidly around the world and is believed to be responsible for the death of more than 600,000 people in the United States alone. A recent Rasmussen Reports national survey of registered voters found 46 percent did not believe Fauci had not been truthful about U.S. financial support for the “gain of function” research — defined as “taking a virus that could infect humans and making it either more transmissible and/or pathogenic for humans” — conducted by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, who is also a physician and has aggressively called for a full investigation into the origins of COVID has said repeatedly that emails sent and received by Fauci and uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act request show that Fauci was aware American taxpayer-funded grants were at least partially underwriting the Wuhan lab’s research that may have produced the virus.
Asked by The Post about the differences between the plans of the two 2020 presidential candidates for dealing with the pandemic, Fauci praised then-former Vice President Joe Biden for “taking it seriously from a public health perspective” while stating simply that President Donald J. Trump was “looking at it from a different perspective.”
The group’s complaint also singles out Fauci’s call for an “abrupt change” just days before voters headed to the polls. It could be inferred from his remark that he was advocating for Biden to replace Trump in the White House though, in the context of the interview it appears he was talking about the national strategy for stopping the spread of COVID.
The collection of issues related to COVID has a major impact on the 2020 election. They were, Protect the Public’s Trust recently wrote, a “paramount concern for voters entering the 2020 general election.” An August 2020 pre-election Pew Research poll cited by the group found, “62 percent of voters say[ing] the outbreak will be a very important factor in their decision about who to support in the fall.”
Post-election surveys as well as Trump’s own campaign team’s analysis explaining why he lost suggest strongly the public’s perception he’d mishandled the pandemic drove many voters — even some who typically vote GOP — to cast their ballots for Biden.
“The timing of (Fauci’s) statements, combined with the circumstances of the interview and post-election comments celebrating the outcome,” The Federalist wrote about the complaint when it broke the story in June, “illustrate further intent in Fauci’s remarks that violate the Hatch Act.”
The election, The Federalist pointed out, was decided by less than 43,000 votes across what it called “three tipping-point states” despite Biden’s popular vote total having exceeding trump’s by more than 7 million. The narrowness of the actual result could, some election professionals say, be interpreted as lending support to the argument made by the watchdog group that Fauci’s remarks assisted Biden politically even though that would be hard to prove.
The federal Hatch Act dates back to the New Deal period and is the result of allegations some connected to the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt had played politics with funds intended to alleviate the economic impact of the Great Depression to the benefit of local Democratic Party political machines. In its current form, it also prohibits members of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service – of which Fauci is part – from engaging in political activity while on duty and from using their official authority to interfere with an election.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has become increasingly defensive and evasive in answering legitimate questions posed by members of Congress.
This is a problem.
Fauci has no statutory authority to preside over a public health crisis. Nonetheless, he has become the nation’s de facto doctor in chief during the COVID-19 pandemic. He clearly relishes the attention — making an astronomical number of media appearances that promote himself, but not public health. Unfortunately, Fauci has been a horribly ineffective doctor in chief.
Fauci started off the pandemic by telling us that “people should not be walking around with masks.” This initial dismissal of masks was fact-based and rational. But now, Fauci advocates wearing two masks even after vaccination. Where are the reliable scientific studies proving that masks save lives? Or that they are necessary after vaccination?
The idea that those who’ve been vaccinated or have natural immunity should still wear masks for the next year or two on a seasonal basis is one of the most insanely idiotic and anti-science statements made since some worry-warts on Christopher Columbus’s crew expressed concerns that they might sail off the edge of the Earth.
I’d like to hear Fauci explain what he has been doing for the last 50 years to avoid contracting or spreading the deadly smallpox virus or polio. Answer: He’s done nothing because vaccines work.
But Fauci advocates people get vaccinated while also suggesting that it won’t actually help. We still can’t return to normal life, he says. It is little wonder that many question why they should get vaccinated. It is the logical result of Fauci’s anti-science approach!
Here’s the truth — Fauci isn’t a serious doctor or a serious scientist. He’s just a serious government bureaucrat who happens to have a medical degree and often wears a white lab coat.
However, Sen. Rand Paul is a real medical doctor. Even as a senator, he performs eye surgeries for at-need patients around the globe. Paul has asked some very good questions of Fauci. But it is Fauci who sounds like the consummate politician with his bureaucratic two-step of word games and obfuscation. His answers have often been dismissive, combative, and evasive. He defiantly tells Paul he’s wrong but doesn’t bother to explain why. We are simply supposed to take his word for it. That’s not very scientific.
Consider what happened this week when Paul asked Fauci about U.S. government direct and indirect grants (via third party Eco-Health Alliance) to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Since the Wuhan lab may have been where the virus escaped from, taxpayer funding of the lab is an important question. Yet, Fauci flatly denied funding any Chinese “gain-of-function research” — a risky and controversial approach that involves making pathogens more infectious and deadly. But Fauci also admitted he funded “gain-of-function research” in the United States. He also admitted he couldn’t account for how the Chinese used U.S. taxpayer dollars.
If Fauci doesn’t know how the WIV spent U.S. money, he cannot categorically deny that this money was used to fund risky research.
We can draw a lot of conclusions from the way the totalitarian Chinese regime has blocked and interfered with investigations into the origins of this pandemic. That is precisely how the guilty behave. Likewise, Fauci’s answers to Paul give rational people good reason to question his credibility. If Fauci wants to be taken seriously as a doctor and scientist, he should act like a doctor and scientist rather than a politically motivated bureaucrat.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is going to get a lot of grief about his seeming about-face on whether it is possible that the COVID-19 pandemic can be traced back to an accident at a Chinese laboratory. But it is much better that America’s most famous doctor — the face of the nation’s pandemic response — is keeping an open mind rather than, as he was previously, prematurely ruling out a realistic possibility.
A little more than a year ago, Fauci gave an interview to National Geographic where he said, “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. . . . Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.” The article noted that Fauci “also doesn’t entertain an alternate theory — that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped.”
Since the lab-leak theory arose, there’s been a frustratingly persistent pattern of conflating “created in a lab,” the more remote possibility, and “accidentally released from a lab.” It is worth keeping in mind that certain types of gain-of-function research do not necessarily involve human-driven alteration of the genetic code of a virus. One form of this research, “serial passaging,” consists of taking a pathogen, exposing it to substances or cell hosts, finding the minority of viruses that can survive that threat, taking that tougher and hardier minority, and then repeating the process over and over again to isolate the mutations that make the pathogen most hardy, virulent, contagious, etc. Serial passaging amounts to speeding up the evolutionary process. Laboratory efforts like this would not necessarily “leave fingerprints,” and scientists have noted with concern that, compared with previous viruses such as SARS and MERS, this virus is nearly optimized for infecting the human respiratory tract.
At an event earlier this month, PolitiFact’s Katie Sanders noted that there is still “a lot of cloudiness around the origins of COVID-19” and asked Fauci whether he is “still confident that it developed naturally.” He answered,
No, actually, I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened. . . . Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus.
Recent weeks have brought a sudden and spectacular public reconsideration of the plausibility of a lab leak from the scientific and journalistic establishment. “More investigation is still needed to determine the origin of the pandemic. Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” 18 reputable scientists wrote to Science magazine. The editorial board of the Washington Post concluded, “If the laboratory leak theory is wrong, China could easily clarify the situation by being more open and transparent. Instead, it acts as if there is something to hide.” Donald G. McNeil Jr., the prize-winning but now “canceled” former science reporter for the New York Times, concluded that “the argument that [SARS-CoV-2] could have leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology or a sister lab in Wuhan has become considerably stronger than it was a year ago, when the screaming was so loud that it drowned out serious discussion.” This comes a few months after the previous director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, “I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, escaped.”
Welcome to the party, everyone.
It is good that the lab-leak theory is no longer being reflexively dismissed as a conspiracy theory, paranoid nuttiness, or ipso facto evidence of an anti-Asian bias. But this reconsideration is belated. Yes, some evidence has accumulated in the past year — the U.S. State Department memos warning about a lack of trained personnel at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the claim that cellphone use in part of the WIV stopped for three weeks in October 17, and the World Health Organization investigation concluding that some WIV staffers got sick with flu-like symptoms in autumn of 2019. When the WHO team went to Wuhan, Chinese medical authorities refused to hand over raw data about the earliest patients. But little of that represents a game-changer in the facts on the ground. From the beginning, the world has been confronting a novel coronavirus closest to those found in bats that first emerged in a city that housed not one but two state-run labs researching novel coronaviruses found in bats.
Nicholson Baker’s lengthy cover piece in New York magazine contended that the lab-leak theory became a culture-war football, and scientists feared that discussing the plausibility of the theory could end up benefiting a president they detested:
Everyone took sides; everyone thought of the new disease as one more episode in an ongoing partisan struggle. Think of Mike Pompeo, that landmass of Cold War truculence; think of Donald Trump himself. They stood at their microphones saying, in a winking, I-know-something-you-don’t-know sort of way, that this disease escaped from a Chinese laboratory. Whatever they were saying must be wrong. It became impermissible, almost taboo, to admit that, of course, SARS-2 could have come from a lab accident. “The administration’s claim that the virus spread from a Wuhan lab has made the notion politically toxic, even among scientists who say it could have happened,” wrote science journalist Mara Hvistendahl in the Intercept.
Obviously, the evidence regarding such an important matter shouldn’t be evaluated differently based on who is president of the United States. “TRUST THE SCIENCE” has been a simplistic and not-all-that-illuminating slogan for much of this pandemic. This is another case where many of the same people who used that slogan most readily haven’t hewed to it themselves. There should be a reckoning over this rank failure, and instead of relying on WHO, which is compromised in important respects, U.S. authorities should investigate the origins of the virus to the extent possible.
Now that the rigid conventional wisdom on this issue is finally giving way, we should seek the truth without fear, favor, or politically motivated preconceptions.