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Sen. Rand Paul blasted Dr. Anthony Fauci at a Senate hearing Thursday over gain-of-function research in Wuhan, China — calling for his resignation and alleging he’s “learned nothing from this pandemic.”
Paul (R-Ky.) grilled the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, on why he repeatedly denied that the virus research was funded by the NIH prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Gain-of-function could cause a pandemic even worse next time,” Paul said. “[It] could endanger civilization as we know it.”
The firebrand conservative claimed NIH-funded scientists “created viruses not found in nature” and that Fauci “misled” the American public by refusing to admit it.
“Your repeated denials have worn thin and the majority of Americans, frankly, don’t believe you,” Paul said. “Your persistent denials are not just a stain on your reputation but are a clear and present danger to the country and to the world.”
“You appear to have learned nothing from this pandemic,” Paul said. “I think it’s time you resign.”
Regardless of whether the viruses created at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were linked to COVID-19, similar research funded by the NIH could spark another pandemic, Paul said. He also alleged that Fauci changed the definition of the term “gain-of-function” in order to deny it had happened.
“You’ve changed the definition on your website to cover your ass,” Paul said.
But Fauci fired back, telling the Senate Health Committee that Paul is “egregiously incorrect in what he says.”
“Senator, with all due respect, I disagree with so many of the things you’ve said,” Fauci responded. “First of all, gain of function is a very nebulous term.”
He said the definition was developed over a period of two or three years beginning in 2014, and that “outside bodies have spent a lot of time to give a more precise definition because it is a research of concern that might lead to a dangerous situation.”
“The gaudiness are clear that you have to be dealing with a pathogen that clearly shows [that it’s] very likely to be highly transmissible in an uncontrollable way in humans and to have a high degree of morbidity and that you do experiments to enhance that,” he said.
In the case of the Wuhan Institute, “It’s much more likely that [COVID-19] was a natural occurrence,” Fauci said.
The heated back-and-forth came two weeks after the NIH admitted to funding gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at China’s Wuhan lab, despite Fauci repeatedly insisting to Congress that no such thing happened.