Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told lawmakers Wednesday that Dr. Anthony Fauci “sidelined” him at the start of the pandemic from internal debates about the origin of COVID-19, saying the former White House chief medical adviser did not appreciate Redfield’s support for the so-called “lab leak theory.”
“This was an a priori decision that there’s one point of view that we’re going to put out there, and anyone who doesn’t agree with it is going to be sidelined,” Redfield said at a hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. “And as I say, I was only the CDC director, and I was sidelined.”
Redfield, 71, told Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) that his support for the theory that the coronavirus accidentally emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan, China — rather than jumping from animals to humans — likely prompted his exclusion from high-level discussions of the outbreak.
“I think I made it very clear in January  to all of them why we had to aggressively pursue this,” he said. “And I let them know as a virologist that I didn’t see that this was anything like SARS or MERS. … And they knew that was how I was thinking.”
Redfield added that he was “upset” to find out about the existence of key meetings through the release of internal communications between Fauci, then-NIH Director Francis Collins, and other public health experts years later.
“I didn’t know there was a February 1  conference call until the Freedom of Information came out with the emails, and I was quite upset as the CDC director that I was excluded from those discussions,” he said.
“Why would they do this?” Comer asked the ex-public health agency head.
“Because I had a different point of view,” Redfield responded. “And I was told that they had made a decision that they would keep this confidential until they came up with a single narrative — which I will argue is antithetical to science.”
He added, “Science never selects a single narrative. We foster — as my colleagues just said — we foster debate. And we’re confident that with debate, science will eventually get to the truth.”
Redfield also told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) he was excluded from emails sent to Fauci on Jan. 31, 2020, by Dr. Kristian Andersen and Dr. Robert Garry. Each pointed to the potential lab origins of the virus — only to backtrack days later under pressure from Fauci.
“Three years ago, if you thought it came from a lab, you got called a nutjob, you got censored on Twitter, you got blacklisted on Twitter,” Jordan said. “You were even called a crackpot by the very same scientists who in late January  sent emails to Dr. Fauci and said it came from a lab. They called you crackpot. Is that right, Dr. Redfield?”
“I think the most upsetting thing to me was the Baltimore Sun calling me a racist because I said this came from a Wuhan lab,” Redfield replied.
A former New York Times science editor during the hearing also ripped Fauci for repeatedly seeking to discredit the “lab leak theory” of COVID-19’s origin — just days after newly released emails showed the medical adviser commissioned a paper early in the pandemic meant to disprove it.
“Fauci was probably not too pleased to hear that the virus might have escaped from research that his agency had funded,” said Nicholas Wade, who also served as an editor for the journals Nature and Science.
Wade was referring to experiments conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology with funding from the National Institutes of Health and Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which was routed to the Chinese institution through the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance.
The journalist and author pointed the finger of blame squarely at Fauci and Collins: “It’s hard to believe that in the twilight of their long careers, they would seriously mishandle an issue as important as the origin of the COVID virus, yet that is what the evidence seems to point to.”
“The national media swallowed the natural origins story unskeptically, and once committed to it, failed to report important contrary evidence,” he added.
Andersen said Fauci and Collins had “prompted” him to write a study to debunk the lab leak theory, according to a Feb. 12, 2020, cover email submitted with an article on the subject to Nature Medicine. The article was published five days later and was cited by Fauci from the White House briefing room two months later — without revealing his own role in its creation.
In his testimony, Wade noted an email Andersen sent Fauci on Jan. 31, 2020, in which Andersen warned the virus had “unusual features” that “(potentially) look engineered.”
Andersen also wrote that he and others “all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”
The following day, Fauci and Collins convened the conference call from which Redfield was excluded and within days, Wade said, Andersen had “repudiated” his initial position.
“Within four days, Andersen in an email on Feb. 4 repudiated, deriding the lab leak as a crackpot theory,” he said. “What made him change his mind? No new scientific evidence came to light.”
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