Key figure in Wuhan research thanked Fauci for downplaying lab leak hypothesis

A key figure in coronavirus research at a Wuhan laboratory personally thanked Dr. Anthony Fauci for downplaying the likelihood that COVID-19 originated in a lab — even though the possibility remains, more than a year later, under investigation.Anthony S. Fauci wearing a suit and tie© Provided by Washington Examiner

Peter Daszak — president of EcoHealth Alliance, a research group that secured a grant to perform coronavirus research in Wuhan before the pandemic — wrote to Fauci in April of last year “to say a personal thank you on behalf of our staff and collaborators” after Fauci dismissed the idea that the pandemic started due to a lab accident in Wuhan.

Fauci replied to the email, which came on April 18, 2020, to thank Daszak for his “kind note.” Earlier in the day, Fauci was asked directly about the lab leak hypothesis during a COVID briefing, and he said the scientific evidence “is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.”

The exchange between Daszak and Fauci was part of more than 3,200 pages of Fauci’s emails that BuzzFeed News obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and posted online Tuesday.

Fauci has since publicly shifted his tone, acknowledging in recent days that the virus may indeed have come from a lab.

Daszak, in his email to Fauci, blamed Fox News for targeting his coronavirus research because, earlier in the week, a Fox reporter had asked then-President Donald Trump about reports that an infected intern at the lab had spread the virus after going home. Trump dodged the question, but it was one of the earliest high-profile mentions of the experiments Daszak’s group had facilitated at the Wuhan lab.

“From my perspective, your comments are brave, and coming from your trusted voice, will help dispel the myths being spun around the virus’ origins,” Daszak wrote.

Daszak’s role in quietly steering public opinion away from the possibility of a lab leak has come under scrutiny amid a dramatic shift in media coverage of the hypothesis.

As the pandemic was just beginning, Daszak orchestrated a letter from several scientists that rejected the idea of a lab accident based on little evidence, and he did not disclose his conflict of interest when signing the letter. The letter ultimately informed a significant amount of media coverage of the lab leak theory.

President Joe Biden has said he has ordered his intelligence community to probe the origins of COVID-19 and report back to him in 90 days.

Last week, the EcoHealth Alliance told the Washington Examiner it had received no requests for information from the Biden administration. Previously, Daszak publicly resisted requests for information about EcoHealth’s activities at the Wuhan lab from Fauci’s agency, the National Institutes of Health.


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