A conservative media watchdog has accused corporate media outlets of engaging in censorship by failing to cover the release of documents confirming that the U.S. government did fund gain-of-function research at a virology lab in China despite multiple assertions to the contrary.
Last Monday, The Intercept released more than 900 pages of documents showing that the U.S. funded high-risk experiments at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, where many believe the coronavirus pandemic first originated. According to Johns Hopkins University, the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 4.6 million people worldwide, including more than 659,000 in the U.S.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, has repeatedly denied that the U.S. government has funded gain-of-function research. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has defined gain-of-function research as “juicing up naturally occurring animal viruses to infect humans.”
According to a report from the Media Research Center's NewsBusters, much of the media has demonstrated a lack of interest in covering the newly released documents.
The report, titled “Nets Censor EVIDENCE Fauci Lied About Funding Wuhan COVID Experiments,” found that the three nightly news broadcasts on the broadcast news networks, specifically ABC, CBS and NBC, completely ignored the news during their Tuesday evening broadcasts.
A Fox News report noted that a CNN anchor declined to press Fauci about the documents released by The Intercept when he appeared on the cable news outlet on Tuesday. While the network evening news broadcasts did not address the Intercept report on Tuesday, “ABC World News Tonight” did include clips of Fauci pushing for the masking of children in schools and condemning the large crowds at football games that took place over Labor Day Weekend.
Fauci has become the public face of the U.S. government’s coronavirus response and has frequently made the rounds on cable news over the past 18 months. NewsBusters contends that the networks’ failure to cover The Intercept’s report stemmed from a desire to protect Fauci.
In addition to his frequent media appearances, Fauci has also appeared before Congress on multiple occasions, testifying that the U.S. government did not fund the kind of research that is believed to have caused the coronavirus pandemic.
“The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Fauci asserted during an exchange with Paul at a May 11 Senate hearing.
At a July 20 hearing, Paul read aloud testimony from Dr. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, who told National Review that research conducted at the lab “matches, indeed epitomizes, the definition of gain-of-function.” Ebright specifically alleged that “the Wuhan lab used NIH funding to construct novel chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses able to infect human cells and laboratory animals.”
After sharing Ebright’s analysis, Paul asked Fauci if he wanted to retract his statement insisting that the NIH never funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan. Additionally, the senator informed him that lying to Congress under oath constituted a crime.
Fauci declined to take Paul up on his offer: “I have never lied before Congress and I do not retract that statement.” He told Paul that “you do not know what you are talking about” regarding gain-of-function research and the two engaged in a back-and-forth about the semantics of the practice. Almost immediately following Fauci’s appearance at the July 20 hearing, Paul announced that he had sent a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, asking the agency to prosecute the immunologist for lying to Congress.
The documents obtained by The Intercept raise further questions about whether the U.S. government has funded gain-of-function research. In 2014, the National Institutes of Health, part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, awarded a $666,442 grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a scientific research nongovernmental organization, to fund a project titled “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.” The award included “funds for subcontract/consortium activity with Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
The project took place over a period of five years, with EcoHealth Alliance receiving additional six-figure grants on an annual basis through 2019. The National Institutes of Health awarded EcoHealth Alliance a total of nearly $3.1 million to conduct the research. The Intercept obtained the original grant proposal outlining the scope of the project as well as updates highlighting progress made on the research throughout the five-year period.
The goal of the project was to “examine the risk of future coronavirus (CoV) emergence from wildlife using in-depth field investigations across the human-wildlife interface in China.” The project summary highlighted that Asia has a “largescale human-wildlife interface” because “bats, and other wildlife species, are hunted, traded, butchered and consumed across” the continent.
The project proposal indicated an intent to “test predictions of CoV inter-species transmission” by testing “emergence potential” using “reverse genetics, pseudovirus and receptor binding assays, and virus infection experiments across a range of cell cultures from different species and humanized mice.”
The Intercept obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request as part of ongoing litigation against the National Institutes of Health, which has faced intense scrutiny as government and media officials have sought to identify the origins of the coronavirus pandemic that has caused the widespread loss of lives and livelihoods around the globe. Critics of Fauci and gain-of-function research are suggesting that the probe into the origins of the pandemic is causing concern among the research’s most vocal proponents.
Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal editorial board predicted that Fauci and others involved in promoting and supporting gain-of-function research would “suffer significant reputational damage and perhaps lose funding if scientific research they supported caused a pandemic.” Paul introduced an amendment to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 that would “prohibit the National Institutes of Health and any other federal agency from funding gain-of-function research conducted in China.” The amendment passed by voice vote.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org