The Wuhan Road Show: Forming a Band, Virologists Toured Washington’s Backstreets
INTEL BRIEFING DOCUMENT: Scientists’ talks to DC officials created an earworm in the intelligence community with lyrics bent against a Chinese lab accident.
8 minute read
“I remember it very well,” the National Institutes of Health’s Anthony Fauci told USA Today last year, when asked about a secret Feb. 1, 2020 teleconference with virologists that he helped organize to discuss if the pandemic had started from a lab in Wuhan, China. According to internal NIH emails, Fauci had been informed before the teleconference that he funded research in Wuhan.
“I always had an open mind,” Fauci told the newspaper, “Even though I felt then, and still do, the most likely origin was in an animal host.”
But Fauci’s keen memory of always having an “open mind” seems clouded by statements he made only days after that secret teleconference—statements in which Fauci shot down a Chinese lab accident as a “conspiracy theory.”
“Well, I think ultimately, we know that these things come from an animal reservoir,” Fauci told Newt Gingrich on a recently unearthed Feb. 9, 2020 podcast in which the former Republican Speaker of the House asked if the COVID19 virus could have escaped from a Chinese lab. “I've heard these conspiracy theories,” Fauci said, “And like all conspiracy theories, Newt, they're just conspiracy theories.”
At the time of the 2020 interview, Gingrich could not have known that Fauci was already collaborating behind the scenes with the virologists and had already reviewed drafts of a manuscript they were writing. It was only in recent weeks that the NIH released emails showing that scientists thanked Fauci for providing “advice and leadership” on this paper.
“We do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible,” the paper’s authors concluded in the final version published on March 17, 2020, in Nature Medicine.
Fauci then referenced the Nature Medicine paper at a White House press conference, when asked if the virus may have originated from a Chinese lab. “I don’t have the authors right now,” Fauci told the reporter. “But we can make that available to you.”
According to a newly discovered intelligence report, somebody appears to also have made the authors available for backstreet briefings with high-ranking State Department officials, days after the Nature Medicine paper appeared. Marked “UNCLASSIFIED/FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY” this Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) report documents a briefing that non-government scientists gave to State Department officials, downplaying the possibility of a Chinese lab accident.
The only study the scientists cited while briefing the State Department—the Nature Medicine paper.