July 21, 2021 -- Anthony Fauci, MD, the chief medical adviser to the White House, and his frequent critic, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, exchanged angry words on Tuesday during a Senate committee hearing about the coronavirus pandemic.
“Senator Paul, you do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially,” Fauci, who is also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at one point. “You do not know what you are talking about.”
The argument broke out because Paul wanted to discuss whether the National Institutes of Health funded “gain-of-function” research at a lab in Wuhan, China, The Washington Post reported.
The lab has come under scrutiny because of allegations that the COVID-19 pandemic originated there when testing went awry. The Post called “gain-of-function” “a controversial practice that involves enhancing a virus in a lab to try to anticipate future pandemics.”
During a previous hearing, Fauci said that the NIH “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Post reported.
On Tuesday, during a Senate committee hearing, Paul brought up the subject again.
The senator asked: “Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11 where you claimed that the NIH never funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan?”
“Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement,” Fauci replied.
Paul, a Republican and an ophthalmologist, said that Fauci was “dancing around this because you are trying to obscure responsibility for 4 million people dying around the world from a pandemic.”
“I totally resent the lie that you are now propagating, senator,” Fauci said.
He went on to say, “You are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individuals,” he said. “I totally resent that. And if anybody’s lying here, senator, it is you.”
In March, the Biden administration announced it would conduct a deep-dive investigation into the origin and initial transmission of the coronavirus. That announcement came days after a U.S. intelligence report found that three researchers at a lab in China fell ill in November 2019.
“It’s our position that we need to get to the bottom of this,” White House senior COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said at the time.