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Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed concerns regarding U.S. funding of projects at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in an interview on NewsNation Now on Wednesday.
The National Institutes of Health funneled $3.4 million to the WIV through the non-profit EcoHealth Alliance from 2014 to 2019, for the purpose of researching bat coronaviruses. The funding has come under scrutiny amid concerns that the novel coronavirus may have leaked from the WIV.
Fauci told host Leland Vittert that the amount of funding was relatively low.
“The Wuhan lab is a very large lab, to the tune of hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars — the grant that we’re talking about was $600,000 over five years,” Fauci said.
Fauci argued that the lab’s research of coronaviruses was essential in order to assess the threat of certain viruses to humans, “which might then damage the United States.”
“You don’t want to go to Hoboken, N.J., or to Fairfax, Va., to be studying the bat-human interface that may lead to an outbreak, so you go to China,” Fauci said.
Observers have raised the possibility that WIV scientists were performing gain-of-function research on coronaviruses, making them more dangerous and/or infectious in the laboratory. Fauci said that while he could not guarantee such research did not occur, the reports from the WIV indicated that research was conducted responsibly.
“I can’t guarantee everything that’s going on in the Wuhan lab, we can’t do that, but it is our obligation as scientists and public health individuals to study the animal-human interface,” Fauci said.
Thousands of Fauci’s emails were released this week as a result of a FOIA request by Buzzfeed, drawing further media scrutiny. In one email, EcoHealth Alliance head Peter Daszak thanked Fauci for publicly dismissing the theory that coronavirus leaked from the WIV.
“From my perspective, your comments are brave, and coming from your trusted voice, will help dispel the myths being spun around the virus’s origins,” Daszak wrote in April 2020. Fauci responded at the time, “Many thanks for your kind note.”
Commenting on the release of the emails on Wednesday, Fauci said that “they are really ripe to be taken out of context where someone can snip out a sentence in an email without showing the other emails and say, ‘based on an email from Dr. Fauci, he said such-and-such,’ where you don’t really have the full context.”