Americans have much to be proud of in the way the nation’s frontline healthcare workers and scientists stepped up to deal with the greatest public health threat in a century. But there are many lessons for the future to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and how the medical science bureaucracy handled it.
On the latest episode of the DrillDown podcast, co-hosts Peter Schweizer and Eric Eggers explore one such lesson: how the flow of money to the medical science establishment worked to scuttle inquiries into how the COVID-19 virus was introduced and how it spread.
New reporting from The Spectator magazine has raised questions about Dr. Anthony Fauci’s role in squelching discussion of the “lab leak” theory origin of COVID-19 in early 2020 as the US government was ramping up its response to the rapidly spreading contagion. Specifically, the story by reporter Ashley Rindsberg explores Fauci’s relationship with George Daley, the dean of the Harvard Medical School, and with a $115 million grant pledge the school had just received from a Chinese real estate firm called the Evergrande Company.
As Peter and Eric ask, why in the earliest days of the most threatening public health crisis in one hundred years would Fauci care about a Chinese real estate company’s donation to Harvard Medical School? The answer is complicated, as the story reveals, because the email from Daley to Fauci on behalf of Evergrande mentions that the company is serving as a go-between for Dr. Zhong Nanshan, China’s key point person on the coronavirus outbreak. Zhong helped lead China’s response to COVID-19 and the SARS epidemic in 2003.
At the time, according to other emails produced from Fauci’s account under a Freedom of Information Act request, there was ongoing discussion within Fauci’s agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) about features of the virus that, in the words of Kristian Andersen, a disease genomics researcher at Scripps Institute in California, “look engineered.” Fauci was hearing data that suggested the virus had characteristics that were unlikely to have occurred naturally and from other scientists who expressed “80 percent certainty the virus came from a lab,” while Andersen put his certainty level at 60 to 70 percent, according to the Spectator’s report.
Yet three days later, according to the report, Andersen wrote an email to the White House claimed the data “conclusively show” that the virus was not engineered and that speculation about a possible lab leak was nothing more than “conspiracy” and “fringe” theories spread by “crackpots.”
What changed? Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, has wondered that, too. He sent a letter recently to Harvard president Lawrence Bacow seeking an explanation: “It has come to my attention that in the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States, you, Harvard Provost Alan Garber, and Harvard Medical School Dean George Daley facilitated what would become a concerning relationship between Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Chinese property developer Evergrande,” Rubio wrote. Did Bacow inform the FBI of these activities? he asked.
Citing the Spectator report, Rubio charged “these interactions apparently shaped two subsequent developments: 1) a donation by Evergrande to Harvard Medical School to the tune of $115 million, and 2) a decision by US scientists and public health officials, including Dr. Fauci, to publicly dismiss the possibility that the novel coronavirus emerged as a result of a research-related incident, likely at the state-run Wuhan Institute of Virology, after these same scientists and officials had discussed this very hypothesis in private and deemed it plausible.”
Eric quotes from the letter, “Given Harvard University’s long history of working in China and interacting with PRC officials, I would expect that you and others in the university’s leadership would have seen Evergrande’s outreach for what it was: a CCP attempt to obscure the origin of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and absolve itself of responsibility for having caused the worst pandemic in a century.”
Peter highlights yet another conflict of interest involving Fauci – “embarrassment.” NIH and Fauci’s own NIAID had previously funded what is called “gain of function” research that was carried out in China, at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Fauci’s agency funded a program created by a scientist named Peter Daszak to do this research, which was done in China. Any finding that suggested the COVID-19 virus was created through US government funding would be enormously embarrassing for Fauci and his agency. Fauci shut down inquiries into the “lab leak” origins of the virus, with the conflict of interest being that his organization may have indirectly funded it.
“If this actually is a lab leak, you have the prospect that taxpayer dollars going through Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance was actually funding it and may have contributed to this lab leak,” Peter says. “That’s a massive conflict of interest and one of the reasons you shouldn’t have Anthony Fauci deciding whether this was a lab leak or not, because he’s conflicted.”