AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Following the selection of California Republican Kevin McCarthy as Speaker late last week, the House of Representatives on Monday officially commissioned a special investigative panel focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the federal response to it. One top target of that investigation is expected to be former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi tirelessly shielded from congressional inquiries for the past two years.
The panel will fall under the umbrella of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, now chaired by Republican James Comer of Kentucky. “There’s a lot of confusion out there, there’s a lot of uncertainty out there, and I believe every American regardless of their political ideology would like to know the truth,” Comer said of the forthcoming investigation.
The most significant questions the House GOP is expected to press Fauci on are in regard the origins of the COVID-19 virus. Early on in the pandemic, Fauci repeatedly dismissed the so-called “lab leak theory,” or the hypothesis that the virus, rather than originating naturally as the Chinese government and World Health Organization initially asserted, actually escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
But according to recently released emails, Fauci actually received confirmation from other scientists early on in the pandemic that the lab leak theory was not only possible, but likely. One email to Fauci in January 2020 from another top scientist stated that COVID had “unusual features,” and appeared as though it could have been “potentially… engineered.” Another email in March 2020 indicated that China had been lying about its COVID-related deaths and “misled the world into a false sense of security.”
In an op-ed last August, Rep. Comer further stated that, despite knowing about the possibility of a lab leak origin, Fauci never “relayed [that information] to President Donald Trump, the COVID-19 task force, or any other federal agency.” But despite that apparent shocking dereliction of duty, Pelosi and House Democrats continued to shield Fauci and his compatriots at the NIH from any accountability.
Fauci also repeatedly dismissed the lab leak hypothesis as a “conspiracy theory,” a line which the mainstream media dutifully picked up and wielded as a political weapon against any conservative – most notably Donald Trump – who demanded transparency from China. By October 2021, however, even the World Health Organization had finally admitted that the lab leak theory was possible, and President Joe Biden announced an “investigation” into the Wuhan lab.
Fauci has also been cagey when it comes to his ties to “gain of function research” at the Wuhan lab in question. Gain of function research refers to intentionally making a virus more deadly and transmissible, presumably to help fight the disease. In an appearance before Congress in May 2021, Fauci told lawmakers that the NIH “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” But documents unsealed in December of that year made clear that Fauci’s statements were false, and the NIH had indeed used U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund gain of function research in Wuhan. Moreover, Fauci himself appears to have signed off on the grants approving the research.
Throughout the pandemic, Fauci also expressed, with absolute certainty, that masks “worked” in halting the spread of the disease, that the COVID-19 vaccine would prevent people from contracting the virus, and that the benefits of lockdowns outweighed the potential social harm. When all of these “facts” were called into question, he consistently reframed his previous stances as only “educated guesses.”
Thus far, Democratic control of both chambers of Congress has shielded Fauci from extensive questioning and investigations on these and other matters of critical importance regarding COVID-19. Although a few terse exchanges like those between Fauci and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul have revealed some important information, Americans have been denied transparency into potential conflicts of interest and outright lies from the man who more than anyone else became the face of the government’s response to COVID-19.
While Fauci has since retired from the NIH, he has continued to make the rounds on the media circuit, seemingly never turning down an interview request. Following Republicans’ victory in the November midterm elections and promises for COVID-19 investigations, Fauci promised to be an “open book” to GOP lawmakers – a surprising assertion from a man who has repeatedly dodged questions and tried to cover up what he knew about the virus and when.
But with subpoena and investigatory powers now firmly in hand, Republicans won’t have to ask – they can now demand all of Fauci’s records and correspondence from his time as a government employee. What they find will undoubtedly be worth paying attention to, both from the standpoint of learning the truth about the government’s pandemic response and preventing similar overreaches of government power in the future.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.