Despite Trump’s new round of bullying, Fauci says COVID likely didn’t leak from a Chinese lab | Opinion

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Former President Trump, perhaps trying to divert attention from his own disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, is now lashing out against Dr. Anthony Fauci for allegedly failing to seriously consider that the virus might have originated from China’s Wuhan lab, rather than from an animal’s transmission to humans.

But judging from what Fauci told me in a June 4 interview, the most respected U.S. infectious diseases expert has not yet seen any convincing evidence that the virus may have escaped from a Chinese lab.

Fauci, who heads the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and is a top medical adviser to President Biden, said, “It is more likely” that — much like SARS, ebola, influenza and HIV — COVID-19 “originated from an animal reservoir and jumped species to humans.” He added, “There’s the possibility that it came from the lab, but I believe that that’s a much less likely possibility.”

In the interview, scheduled to be aired Sunday , June 13 n “Oppenheimer Presenta” on CNN en Español, Fauci said that it’s “important” to try to find out the exact origin of the pandemic, so that we can prevent it from happening again.

Biden has asked U.S. intelligence agencies to investigate the origins of COVID-19 and come back with a report before the end of August.

Asked how the investigation into the source of the virus should be conducted, Fauci said that the World Health Organization has indicated that it will go back to China to continue its investigation.

“I think it needs to be done in a collegial way, with the collaboration of the Chinese scientists, because you’re going to have to have cooperation and do it in a way that you can best get the information,” he said.

Regarding his emails obtained by BuzzFeed and the Washington Post through the Freedom Of Information Act, Fauci told me that his critics “cherrypick things out of context” when they claim that he knew more than he was saying publicly about the possibility that the virus came out of a Chinese lab.

Stressing that he never totally discarded the lab theory — though he never thought it was a major possibility — Fauci added that, “I think what has increased is the interest, not necessarily the evidence.”

Right-wing media have had a field day with the Fauci emails, claiming that he was alerted about the “lab theory” early on and allegedly failed to take it seriously. Much of their claims are based on a Jan. 31, 2020, email, in which infectious-disease expert Kristian Andersen wrote to Fauci that some of the virus’ features “[potentially] looked engineered.”

But what most right-wing media fail to mention is that, a few weeks later, Andersen concluded, upon further investigation, that the “lab theory” was implausible. So the criticism that Fauci was wrongfully hiding the “lab theory” from the public does not hold up.

Of course, Trump now is trying to paint Fauci as the culprit for the fact that America holds the world’s record for COVID-19 deaths in absolute numbers. In a mass email on June 3, Trump claimed that “President Trump was right about the China Virus coming from the Wuhan Lab,” and suggested that Fauci was defending China.

But, until we see any hard evidence that COVID-19 emerged from the Wuhan lab, Trump’s accusations should be seen as just another attempt to bypass science and divert public attention from the COVID-19 deaths caused by his failure to tackle the pandemic.

Remember, Trump knew early on that COVID would be deadly — he is on tape telling author Bob Woodward this in February 2020 — but chose to lie to the American people for fear that it would ruin his re-election chances. What’s more, Trump consistently refused to wear a mask or preach social distance, as scientists were recommending.

As I wrote at the time Trump neglected his main duty — to protect the American people.

Granted, investigations into the origins of COVID-19 are justified and should continue. And there’s no question that China’s dictatorship is responsible for its delay in alerting the world about the deadly virus as soon as it started.

But barring solid evidence that the virus originated from a Chinese lab, Trump remainsthe villain — and Fauci the hero.

Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show on Sundays at 8 pm E.T. on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera