The successor to Francis Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health confirmed to Congress that his agency complied with Chinese scientists who insisted that the early genomic sequence of the virus that causes COVID-19 be concealed.
The NIH “eliminated from public view” the crucial virus data from the lab in Wuhan, China, acting director Lawrence Tabak told a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday.
The genomic sequence could help determine whether or not the pandemic began with a leak from the Wuhan lab – as considerable circumstantial evidence indicates – while assisting scientists in crafting a response.
Tabak insisted that while the virus data is not public, researchers can still access it from a “tape drive,” which he acknowledged is “old technology.”
In March, Vanity Fair reported biologist Jesse D. Bloom confronted National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Executive Director Dr. Anthony Fauci with a preprint of a paper showing that early genomic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 had been deleted from NIH databases at the “request of researchers in Wuhan.”
In the hearing Wednesday, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., asked Tabak to explain why U.S. officials would comply with such a request by researchers working for the communist Chinese government, the New York Post reported.
“There’s no question that the communication that we had about the sequence archive – Sequence Read Archive – could have been improved. I freely admit that,” Tabak said. “If I may, the archive never deleted the sequence, it just did not make it available for interrogation.”
“So wait, you have the information still?” Beutler asked.
“We have the information,” Tabak affirmed.
“Anybody who submits to the Sequence Read Archive is allowed to ask for it to be removed,” the NIH official continued. “And that investigator did do that. But we never erase it.”
“So you don’t have the information anymore?” Beutler followed up.
“We do. We never erase the information. We keep it,” Tabak said.
“So they were able to withdraw public viewing of it?” the congresswoman asked
“That’s correct,” he said.
See the exchange with Tabak:
Fascinating exchange at the House this morning with NIH Acting Director Lawrence Tabak about the deletion of early COVID sequences at the behest of Chinese scientists.
— Emily Kopp (@emilyakopp) May 11, 2022
‘Groundless and destructive conspiracy theory’
When Bloom raised the issue in June 2021 in his paper, Vanity Fair reported, Fauci and Collins responded by organizing a Zoom meeting with the biologist and several other top scientists.
Fauci objected to Bloom’s description of Chinese scientists “surreptitiously” deleting the sequences, insisting the word was “loaded and the reason they’d asked for the deletions was unknown.”
Meanwhile, as more scientists called for transparency about the origin of the virus, Vanity Fair reported, NIH officials and NIH-funded scientist Peter Daszak sought to “present the lab-leak hypothesis as a groundless and destructive conspiracy theory.”
Daszak has a clear conflict of interest. Through his non-profit EcoHealth Alliance, he carried out dangerous gain-of-function research on coronaviruses in bats at the Wuhan with Chinese scientist Shi Zhengli.
As WND reported, a January 2020 email Fauci received from four top virologists shows there was strong evidence the COVID-19 virus was engineered in a lab. But after a teleconference the next day with Fauci, the virologists began dismissing the lab-leak possibility as among “crackpot theories” that “relate to this virus being somehow engineered with intent and that is demonstrably not the case.”
In April 2020, Fauci was asked by a reporter during a White House briefing if the research at the Wuhan lab might be responsible for the pandemic. Fauci insisted a “group of highly qualified evolutionary virologists” had concluded the virus was “totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.”
The day after the briefing, Daszak emailed Fauci, thanking him for “publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
“From my perspective, your comments are brave, and coming from your trusted voice, will help dispel the myths being spun around the virus’s origins,” Daszak wrote to Fauci on April 18, 2020.
‘I have always kept an open mind’
Fauci, in an interview with the BBC in March, was asked how he “could be so certain, so early on” that the pandemic had a natural origin, when he “knew so little about the virus.”
“Well, I was never certain so early on,” Fauci replied. “I have always kept an open mind. But when you look at the circumstances of the evolution, the similarity between [SARS-CoV-2] and SARS-CoV-1 from 2002 and 2003, I said – as did many other virologists who are very experienced in that – that the most likely etiology was a jumping species from an animal to the human.
The BBC presenter then brought up the Daszak’s now-retracted letter in The Lancet in February 2020 ridiculing anyone positing the lab leak theory as a conspiracy theorist.
“Was the scientific community too quick to dismiss the possibility that it could have come from a laboratory?” she asked.
“Well, I don’t think they were dismissing it,” Fauci said. “I think it’s been misinterpreted. Everyone has always kept an open mind.”
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But Daszak and the 26 other scientists boldly stated in the letter: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”
The scientists then published a March 17, 2020, article in the journal Nature Medicine that stated, “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”
But last September, The Lancet published a letter from 16 scientists that essentially condemned the two letters, charging the missives had “a silencing effect on the wider scientific debate, including among science journalists.”
See Fauci’s remarks to the BBC about the pandemic origin:
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