Dr. Anthony Fauci said he still believes the COVID-19 virus could have been caused by a “natural occurrence” — and that critics who have called for him to be prosecuted over his handling of the pandemic are “off the deep end.”
The former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who retired at the end of last year, made the remarks on CNN Saturday, two weeks after an Energy Department assessment found that the coronavirus likely originated in a Chinese lab.
In the months after the pandemic began, Fauci had discounted the theory that the virus had emanated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The 82-year-old now said he was still keeping a “completely open mind” to the origin of the virus, while explaining how a lab leak still could be considered a “natural occurrence.”
“A lab leak could be that someone was out in the wild, maybe looking for different types of viruses in bats, got infected, went into a lab and was being studied in the lab and then came out of the lab,” Fauci told anchor Jim Acosta.
“But if that’s the definition of a lab leak Jim, then that’s still a natural occurrence.”
Fauci said it could also be possible that a lab leak occurred after someone took a virus from the environment and manipulated it before accidentally infecting another person, kickstarting the outbreak, which has killed nearly seven million people worldwide.
A Department of Energy report concluded that COVID-19 likely originated in a Chinese lab.REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Fauci said his critics who want him to be prosecuted for his handling of the pandemic are “off the deep end.”Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
He also made a point of noting that no investigative agency tasked with investigating the origins of the virus by President Biden in 2021 found evidence of nefarious activity at the lab.
“All of the intelligence agencies agree unanimously that this was not engineered. Namely, they didn’t deliberately do this to make a bioweapon,” Fauci said.
The former top medical advisor to seven US presidents has been accused of lying to Congress about the NIH funding gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab.
Fauci has maintained that the organization did not finance the study of how to make viruses either more lethal or more transmissible and said the research at the lab did not contribute to the creation of COVID-19.
When asked about a December tweet from Elon Musk that called for him to be pressed with criminal charges, the Brooklyn native angrily fired back, saying his critics had conflated politics with medicine.
“I mean, prosecute me for what? What are, what are they talking about? I mean I wish I could figure out what the heck they were talking about. I think they’re just going off the deep end,” he told Acosta.
“It doesn’t make any sense to say something like that and it actually is irresponsible.”
Fauci noted that no investigative agency ordered by President Biden to investigate the origins of COVID-19 found evidence of the virus coming from a lab.REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Fauci said that his family has continued to receive death threats due to “misinformation, disinformation and outright lies” about his handling of the pandemic, according to a transcription of the interview published by Fox Business.
“That’s the part of it that is really unfortunate,” he continued. “The rest of it is just insanity, the things they’re saying.
“But it does have a negative effect when people take it seriously and take it out on you and your family.”
Fauci has said he would cooperate with a GOP-led House Oversight Committee investigation about the origins of the virus and the government’s pandemic response and said he hoped to be invited to new hearings into the cause of the virus.
With Post wires