Declaring he is now free to express his opinion, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Trump said in an interview with CNN aired Friday he believes the virus that causes COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.
Robert Redfield said he does not believe the claim – pushed by China, the World Health Organization and establishment media – that the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, evolved naturally, originating in a wet market in Wuhan.
“I’m of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathology in Wuhan was from a laboratory – escaped,” said Redfield.
“Other people don’t believe that. That’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out.”
Meanwhile, at a virtual White House press briefing Friday, White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked to respond to Redfield’s comments.
Fauci, emphasizing that Redfield mentioned he was expressing his personal opinion, said “most public health officials” think the novel coronavirus didn’t come from a lab. Instead, Fauci said, the conventional wisdom is that it adapted to humans naturally, spreading in “the community” in Wuhan for weeks before it was identified.
But Redfield argued that typically when a virus jumps from animals to humans, “it takes a while for it to figure out how to become more and more efficient in human-to-human transmission.”
“It’s only an opinion; I’m allowed to have opinions now,” he said.
Redfield noted it’s “not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker.”
“That’s not implying any intentionality,” Redfield said.
“It’s my opinion, right? But I am a virologist. I have spent my life in virology.”
Redfield said he does not believe “this somehow came from a bat to a human and at that moment in time, that the virus came to the human, became one of the most infectious viruses that we know in humanity for human-to-human transmission.”
Fauci’s controversial research at Wuhan lab
Newsweek reported in April 2020 that Fauci, over the previous decade, promoted the funding of a highly controversial type of research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Called “gain of function” research. It centers on manipulating viruses to explore their potential for infecting humans so that treatments can be developed in advance.
More than 200 scientists pressured the Obama administration in 2014 to temporarily halt U.S. funding for the research because of the risk of a manipulated virus accidentally escaping a lab and igniting a pandemic. Nevertheless, under Fauci’s direction, the dangerous virus engineering resumed in 2017 and continued until April 2020.
Fauci and two co-authors defended the work in the Washington Post in December 2011, arguing that “determining the molecular Achilles’ heel of these viruses can allow scientists to identify novel antiviral drug targets that could be used to prevent infection in those at risk or to better treat those who become infected.”
The research was conducted in secret until, in early 2019, a reporter for Science magazine discovered that the NIH had approved two gain-of-function projects, drawing rebuke from scientists in an editorial in the Washington Post.
“We have serious doubts about whether these experiments should be conducted at all,” wrote Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins University and Marc Lipsitch of Harvard. “[W]ith deliberations kept behind closed doors, none of us will have the opportunity to understand how the government arrived at these decisions or to judge the rigor and integrity of that process.”
See Redfield’s CNN interview:
See Dr. Anthony Fauci’s remarks Friday:
Pompeo contests WHO finding
The novel coronavirus was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan.
Investigators commissioned by the World Health Organization announced their preliminary conclusion in February that it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus originated from a lab.
However, in an interview last week, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed to declassified U.S. intelligence that indicated the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The Chinese government blocked investigators from the U.S. and other nations in the early days of the outbreak, and it continues the cover-up, Pompeo contends.
In fact, in January 2021, China blocked the arrival of the WHO team investigating the origins of the pandemic, claiming that their visas had not yet been approved. The Guardian of London noted China blocked the team even though it “was not intending to probe claims that the virus originated in a Chinese lab.”
The final WHO report is expected to be released soon.
“It is absolutely imperative when this report comes out we understand the basis for the data, because I fear that in the end, this report will not be remotely reflective of what actually transpired,” he told the Washington Examiner in an interview.
Pompeo said he doesn’t believe the investigators “had either the capacity or the access necessary to actually conduct a thorough investigation of how this Wuhan virus ultimately commenced.”
A member of the WHO investigative team, British zoologist Dr. Peter Daszak, appears as an author on at least 25 studies affiliated with a funding entity or author linked to a Chinese Communist Party think tank, university or government ministry, the National Pulse reported Thursday.
Congressional reports have blamed duplicity by the Chinese government and incompetence by the World Health Organization for the outbreak turing into a pandemic.
Under the Trump administration in mid-January, the Pompeo-led State Department issued a fact sheet contending Wuhan lab researchers “conducted experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2% similar).”
Based on information from the intelligence community, the State Department said the lab “has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses.”
And the lab “has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military.”
When the head of the WHO investigation, Peter Ben Embarek, issued a preliminary determination in February, a WHO adviser said that the investigation by his agency actually was conducted by Chinese officials and was very short.
“And so, the WHO investigators were basically receiving reports from the Chinese officials,” Jamie Metzl told the Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham.
All the facts point to Wuhan lab
Pompeo told the Examiner it’s “absolutely critical that we get access to the people who conducted the investigation and ask them a series of questions.”
“Tell me what limits were placed on who could be selected. Tell me how the individuals were chosen,” Pompeo said. “Were there conflicts checks that were run?”
He also wants to know if there was anything in particular that the Chinese Communist Party didn’t want the investigators to review. Did they get access to the scientists who were in the laboratory in 2019 and the early part of 2020, and were they in a position to allow them to speak freely?
Pompeo said it’s also important to find out if the investigators got access to original data rather than “second-order information.”
The fact sheet said the U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the Wuhan lab became sick in autumn 2019 with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, before the first identified case of the outbreak.
The State Department said “that raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli’s public claim that there was ‘zero infection’ among the WIV’s staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses.”
Pompeo said “every fact that I have seen would be consistent with a release from” the Wuhan lab.
“You’ll remember, if you go back to the beginning, people were throwing around language that said, ‘Well, this had to have been natural, it couldn’t have been manmade’ — it’s not really the right way to think about this problem set,” he told the Examiner.
He said there are three facts that support the lab-leak theory: “the fact that it is possible they were working on a virus similar to the one that we now are suffering from, second, that inadequate biosafety measures at the facility, and then third, the massive, intentional cover-up coming from the most senior levels of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Pompeo said he hopes the report will provide answers, but he’s “skeptical that the Chinese Communist Party will ever permit anyone to really understand what happened there.
“I think that suggests that the alternative hypotheses about wet markets and the like are much less likely than the world originally believed,” he said.
Pompeo criticize the Biden administration’s decision to rejoin the WHO.
“At the point of maximum impact, the moment that the WHO’s pandemic prevention efforts were most critical, that they had to be the most right as quickly as they could, they allowed the Chinese Communist Party to walk all over them and denied the world the access to the information that it needed in a timely fashion that could well have saved lives all across the world,” he said. “And for that, the leadership at the WHO has to be held accountable.”
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