Fauci fires back at Rand Paul "Axios on HBO" slam over COVID origins research

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Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

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  • "I obviously totally disagree with Senator Paul," Fauci told George Stephanopoulos. "He's absolutely incorrect. Neither I nor Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the NIH, lied or misled about what we've done."

  • Fauci was responding to a clip of Paul, a Kentucky Republican, telling Mike Allen on the upcoming episode of "Axios on HBO" that President Biden should fire Fauci "just for lack of judgment, if nothing else."

The big picture: Paul claims vindication in his dispute with Fauci, played out at heated Senate hearings, over the level of risk of U.S.-funded research in Wuhan, where COVID began.

  • "He's probably never going to admit that he lied," Paul told "Axios on HBO." "He's gonna continue to dissemble, and try to work around the truth, and massage the truth."

But, but, but: Fauci told Stephanopoulos the implication of the criticism is that the research led to COVID-19.

  • But the doctor said it's "molecularly impossible for those viruses that were worked on to turn into SARS-CoV-2," or COVID-19.

  • "They were distant enough molecularly that no matter what you did to them, they could never, ever become SARS-CoV-2."

Fauci added that the U.S. "knew what the risk was and what the oversight is" at the Wuhan lab.

  • "Certainly, they should have put their progress report in a timely manner," Fauci said. "No denial of that, and there will be administrative consequences of that."

Catch our full interview with Sen. Rand Paul tonight on "Axios on HBO," at 6 pm ET/PT on HBO and HBO Max. Watch a preview.

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