White House defends Fauci over emails
Washington – The White House has defended the president’s top coronavirus adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, amid scrutiny of his recently released work emails.
Dr Fauci has been the face of the nation’s COVID-19 response, drawing both praise and criticism.
And press secretary Jen Psaki said Dr Fauci had been an “undeniable asset”.
But emails have raised questions on whether he backed Chinese denials of the theory that COVID-19 leaked from a lab in Wuhan.
A trove of Dr Fauci’s emails covering the onset of the coronavirus outbreak were released this week to media under a freedom of information request.
In one email sent last April, an executive at a health charity thanked Dr Fauci for publicly stating that scientific evidence does not support the lab-leak theory.
In an interview with CNN, Dr Fauci said the email had been taken out of context by critics and he had an “open mind” about the origin of the virus.
In his defence, Psaki said at her daily press briefing on Thursday: “The president and the administration feel that Dr Fauci has played an incredible role in getting the pandemic under control, being a voice to the public throughout the course of this pandemic.”
There is no proof COVID-19 came from a lab, but United States President Joe Biden has ordered a review into the matter that angered China, which has rejected the theory.
Chinese authorities linked early COVID-19 cases to a seafood market in Wuhan, leading scientists to theorise the virus first passed to humans from animals.
But recent US media reports have suggested growing evidence the virus could instead have emerged from a lab in Wuhan, perhaps through an accidental leak.
What did Fauci tell CNN?
On Thursday, Dr Fauci maintained there was nothing untoward in an email exchange between himself and an executive from a medical non-profit organisation that helped fund research at a diseases institute in Wuhan, the Chinese city where Covid-19 was first reported.
The NIH, which is a US public health agency, gave $600 000 (£425 000) to the Wuhan Institute of Virology from 2014-19 via a grant to the New York-based non-profit group EcoHealth Alliance, for the purpose of researching bat coronaviruses.
Peter Daszak, head of EcoHealth Alliance, emailed Dr Fauci in April 2020, praising him as “brave” for seeking to debunk the lab leak theory.
“Many thanks for your kind note,” Dr Fauci replied.
Fauci told CNN on Thursday it was “nonsense” to infer from the email any cosy relationship between himself and the figures behind the Wuhan lab research.
“You can misconstrue it however you want,” he said, “that email was from a person to me saying ‘thank you’ for whatever it is he thought I said, and I said that I think the most likely origin is a jumping of species. I still do think it is, at the same time as I’m keeping an open mind that it might be a lab leak.”
He added: “The idea I think is quite farfetched that the Chinese deliberately engineered something so that they could kill themselves as well as other people. I think that’s a bit far out.” (BBC)