The White House defended Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci following the release of 3,200 pages of his emails – including exchanges where the infectious disease expert cast doubt on the lab leak theory and offered guidance on masking he would later reverse.
‘Well, I think we’ve spoken to this pretty extensively from here. Let me just say on Dr. Fauci and his emails – he’s also spoken to this many many times over the last, over the course of the last few days and we’ll let him speak for himself,’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said when asked about the email release.
‘And he’s been an undeniable asset in our country’s pandemic response,’ she said. ‘But it’s obviously not that advantageous for me to re-litigate the substance of emails from 17 months ago.’
‘UNDENIABLE ASSET’: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that Dr. Anthony Fauci (pictured) had been an undeniable asset to the administration
Pressed again on Fauci, Psaki gushed: ‘The president and the administration feel that Dr. Fauci has played an incredible role in getting the pandemic under control.’
She pointed to an administration intelligence review into the origins of COVID-19 that is underway.
‘We’ve launched, based on the President’s direction, an entire internal review process to use all the resources across government to get to the bottom of the origins, and that’s 100-day process and we’ll look forward to providing – or 90 days when it’s concluded,’ Psaki said.
Psaki declined to respond directly when asked about a State Department fact sheet on COVID-19 released days before Donald Trump left office.
‘I think I’m just going to focus on our own internal review that’s going to use every resource from the federal government … to see what more we can unearth about the origins which certainly we all want to get to the bottom of,’ she said.
‘The president and the administration feel that Dr. Fauci has played an incredible role in getting the pandemic under control,’ Psaki told reporters Thursday
Fauci has been defending himself in TV interviews
Virologist Shi Zheng-li, left, works with her colleague in the P4 lab of Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017
Fauci slapped back at critics and defended himself in an appearance on CNN Thursday.
‘I think is quite farfetched that the Chinese deliberately engineered something so that they could kill themselves as well as other people. I think that’s a bit far out,’ he said, knocking one theory of the origins of the virus.
‘I have always said and will say today to you … that I still believe the most likely origin is from an animal species to a human,’ the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.
Many emails were redacted, and Fauci was asked during the Thursday morning interview on CNN if he remembers what was said.
‘They only took about 10,000 emails from me. Of course, I remember. I remember all 10,000 of them,’ he said sarcastically. ‘Give me a break.’
Some of the emails released in a government FOIA request show Fauci sharing academic papers arguing that the virus had a ‘a zoonotic origin’ – meaning it came from an animal virus, such as one in bats. Fauci also shared a scholar’s conclusion in April that there was ‘no evidence’ the virus emerged from a lab.
Fauci said publicly in May the evidence showed ‘very, very strongly’ the virus hadn’t been manipulated.
In response to a Feb. 5 email, Fauci counseled former Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell not to wear a mask on a trip. He gave the advice before health officials would later encourage widespread mask use.
‘Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection,’ he wrote at the time. ‘The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you. I do not recommend that you wear a mask, particularly since you are going to a vey low risk location.’
The emails were obtained by BuzzFeed, the Washington Post, and other outlets.
As the Post noted, there do not appear to emails providing Fauci with concrete evidence of a lab leak theory that he dismissed. Some of the emails are redacted.
One email from National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins included a link to a Fox News report about the lab leak theory – with the subject line ‘conspiracy gains momentum.’ However his response, and the bulk of what she wrote, is redacted.