White House Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci gives his opening statement before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on “Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response” on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., November 4, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

During an interview with Politifact in May 2021, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci accidentally started to say that the United States collaborated with Chinese communists on gain-of-function research on coronaviruses before the pandemic erupted.

Referring to Republican Senator Rand Paul’s intense interrogation of him and his organization during congressional hearings over the last year, Fauci attempted to elucidate the extent of U.S. scientific cooperation with China prior to the first Covid-19 outbreak. Doubling-down on his claim that the U.S. did not directly fund high-risk lab experimentation that allegedly generated Sars-CoV-2, Fauci appeared to nearly admit that the U.S. had at least worked with the Chinese Communist Party on gain-of-function research.

“So in a very minor collaboration as part of a sub-contract of a grant, we had a collaboration with some Chinese commu… uh, Chinese scientists. And what he conflated with that is that we were involved in creating the virus, which is the most ridiculous majestic leap I’ve ever heard of,” he said.

“That’s actually preposterous. It was just unfortunate that he said that. It was said in an accusatory way that just made no sense and was not based on any fact at all,” Fauci added.

Earlier that morning in May, before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Paul had accused Fauci of “”juicing up” Covid-19 by allowing U.S. money to finance the Wuhan Virology Institute’s “gain of function research” through the NIH and then covering it up.

“Three million people have died from this pandemic, and that should cause us to explore all possibilities. Instead, government authorities, self-interested in continuing gain-of-function research, say there’s nothing to see here,” Paul said.

“For years, Dr. Ralph Baric, a virologist in the US, has been collaborating with Dr. Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Virology Institute, sharing his discoveries about how to create super-viruses. This gain-of-function research has been funded by the NIH,” he added.

Fauci retorted: “Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect. The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

Contradicting Fauci assurances, a top NIH official revealed in October that the U.S. did fund gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses in Wuhan and that EcoHealth Alliance, the U.S. non-profit that funneled NIH money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was not transparent about the work it was doing.

Lawrence A. Tabak of the NIH told Republican Representative James Comer in a letter about a “limited experiment” the lab conducted to test if “spike proteins from naturally occurring bat coronaviruses circulating in China were capable of binding to the human ACE2 receptor in a mouse model.” The laboratory mice that contracted the modified bat virus “became sicker” than those infected with the unmodified bat virus.

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