Sen. Johnson Presses Fauci to Explain Seemingly Shifting Position on CCP Virus Origin

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) has called on White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci to explain why his statements over the last year on the origin of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus appear to have shifted.

In a May 27 letter (pdf), Johnson wrote that Fauci’s level of confidence in the theory that the virus made a natural jump to humans appears to have dropped, and called on the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to explain the rationale for this shift by June 10.

“The ambiguity of your recent statements about the virus’ origins raises questions regarding your assertion from a year ago when you confidently stated that the virus could not have been manipulated and that it occurred naturally,” Johnson wrote, referring to the alternate theory that the virus had leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China.

Sen. Ron Johnson
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) chairs a Homeland Security Senate hearing in Washington on March 4, 2020. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

In May 2020, Fauci largely dismissed the lab leak theory, telling National Geographic, “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated.”

Recently, Fauci said he’s no longer certain that the CCP virus developed naturally, and called for an open investigation into the origins of the virus.

“I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened,” Fauci said at a fact-checking symposium on May 11.

“Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out. That’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus,” Fauci added.

Days later, Fauci told CBS senior White House correspondent Weijia Jiang that his opinion about the origins of the virus have not changed, in that he continues to believe that it is “highly likely” that it developed naturally before jumping from animal to human, but that he backs a thorough investigation since no one is 100 percent sure about the virus’ natural origin.

Johnson wrote that he finds Fauci’s initial high level of confidence in rejecting a potential laboratory origin “perplexing, given that public reports highlighted safety concerns at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV),” the lab at the heart of the virus origin controversy.

In April, the Washington Post reported on two 2018 State Department cables where U.S. diplomats expressed concerns about the safety of the Wuhan laboratory, Johnson noted, adding that it remains unclear whether Fauci knew about the safety concerns at the WIV when he made his May 2020 statement on the virus’ origins.

“It would be troubling if you were not aware of those concerns, given that taxpayer money went to the laboratory through a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant,” Johnson wrote, referring to a $600,000 grant that Fauci recently confirmed had been channeled to the Wuhan facility for research into how the virus might jump from animals to humans.

Johnson asked Fauci to explain what evidence he relied on in asserting in May 2020 that the virus likely emerged naturally rather than from a lab. He also called on Fauci to explain what evidence led him to his “lowering your confidence” in the natural origin theory and what information and data he relied on in concluding that the virus’s origins should be thoroughly investigated.

The Epoch Times reached out to NIAID with a request for comment on Johnson’s letter, but did not receive a reply by publication time.

It comes as Republican lawmakers have intensified their calls for Dr. Anthony Fauci to be fired after he defended the flow of $600,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the Wuhan facility.

Fauci said in testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services on May 25 that it would’ve been “almost a dereliction of our duty” for the NIH not to collaborate with Chinese scientists to study how the virus might jump from animals to humans.

He insisted that the NIH didn’t fund so-called gain-of-function research, which he defined as “taking a virus that could infect humans and making it either more transmissible and/or pathogenic to humans,” at the Wuhan lab, claiming that the purpose of the $600,000 grant “was to study the animal-human interface, to do surveillance, and to determine if these bat viruses were even capable of transmitting infection to humans.”

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Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a hearing looking into the budget estimates for National Institute of Health (NIH) and the state of medical research on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 26, 2021. (Sarah Silbiger/AFP via Getty Images)

Fauci was further pressed about the matter during a Senate hearing on May 26, with Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) questioning Fauci’s faith in the Wuhan lab’s scientists, whom Fauci called “very respectable” just one day prior.

“How do you know they didn’t lie to you and use the money for gain-of-function research anyway?” Kennedy asked Fauci.

Fauci acknowledged he couldn’t be certain that the money wasn’t used against its intended purpose.

Following Fauci’s remarks, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) called for his removal. In an appearance on “Fox and Friends” on May 27, Davidson accused Fauci of providing “cover for China” amid Beijing’s resistance to a transparent probe into the origins of the outbreak.

Another Republican lawmaker who has called for Fauci’s dismissal, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), told “Fox and Friends” on May 27 that he believes Fauci “is either grossly incompetent or he’s been lying to the American people,” and that he “should be fired or resign.”

The Wuhan facility, home of China’s first P4 lab—a class of laboratory with the highest level of biosecurity where research on the world’s most dangerous diseases are conducted—has been in the spotlight amid concerns that the CCP virus may have originated there, rather than by making a natural jump from bats to humans.

Wuhan P4 laboratory building
The P4 laboratory building at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is shown in Wuhan, China, on April 17, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee argued in a May 19 report (pdf) that it’s more likely the virus escaped from the lab.

The CCP has denied any link between the virus’s origin and the Wuhan lab and has pushed a “natural zoonotic” hypothesis—that the virus was transmitted to humans from an animal host. However, Beijing has so far failed to identify the original animal species that allegedly passed the virus on to humans.

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A staff member wearing a face shield walks through a bus station in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province, China, on April 30, 2020. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

report from the World Health Organization (WHO) published in March stated that the CCP virus likely spread to people through an unknown animal, but WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the mission to study the origin of the virus didn’t adequately analyze other theories.

“As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table … We have not yet found the source of the virus,” Ghebreyesus said.

On May 25, the United States urged the WHO to launch a fresh probe into the source of the CCP virus, highlighting the need for transparency.

More than a dozen nations, including the United States and the European Union, have raised concerns about the phase one WHO study into the origin of the virus, pointing to the report’s significant delay and China’s refusal to share crucial raw data.

President Joe Biden announced on May 26 that he has ordered a closer intelligence review of what he characterized as two equally plausible scenarios of the origins of the CCP virus—one natural, the other a lab leak.

Lily Zhou contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times