WaPo's Josh Rogin: 'Fauci was wrong' about denying NIH funded Wuhan 'gain of function' coronavirus research

Rogin has stood out in media for reporting on plausibility of lab-leak theory

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, who stood out in the media over the past year for his reporting on the possibility the coronavirus pandemic may have leaked from a Chinese lab, said Tuesday that Dr. Anthony Fauci was wrong to deny the National Institutes of Health ever funded "gain of function" research in Wuhan.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. and Fauci had a fierce exchange on the issue again Tuesday, as the White House medical adviser angrily said Paul didn't know what he was talking about. But Rogin said Fauci was playing word games.

"Hey guys, [Rand Paul] was right and Fauci was wrong," he tweeted. "The NIH was funding gain of function research in Wuhan but NIH pretended it didn't meet their "gain of function" definition to avoid their own oversight mechanism. SorryNotSorry if that doesn't fit your favorite narrative."

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As the lab-leak theory has gained credibility after being widely dismissed in the press last year, there's more attention being paid to monies given to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, known for its bat coronavirus research, and so-called "gain of function" methods, which involves manipulating viruses to make them more infectious for research.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly denied any NIH money went to such research in Wuhan, but his organization has given millions of dollars in grant money to the EcoHealth Alliance, a research nonprofit that funneled at least $600,000 to Wuhan coronavirus research.

Paul cited during his questioning of Fauci that Wuhan researcher, "bat lady" Dr. Shi Zhengli, wrote in 2017 that she took two bat coronavirus genes and "combined them with a SARS-related backbone to create new viruses that are not found in nature."

In May, in response to the Wall Street Journal's James Freeman, an NIAID spokesman adamantly denied again that the agency had funded gain-of-function but also acknowledged it wasn't sure what the Wuhan Institute of Virology was up to at all times. 

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"WIV is a Chinese institution which we assume has multiple sources of funding," the spokesman said. "It is impossible for us to be aware of nor can we account for all of their activities. We anticipate that those activities will be further investigated as stated by [the World Health Organization]. We can only speak to our relationship with them. As stated, at no time did NIAID fund gain-of-function research to be conducted at WIV."

Rogin blasted science journalists and other media members in May for their about-face on the lab-leak theory in the past few months, saying they were engaging in "bulls--t naval-gazing."

In an appearance on "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast in April, Rogin said Fauci may have reinstated gain-of-function research after the Obama administration put a pause on the risky research in 2014. Rogin also reported on U.S. State Department cables in 2018 raising security concerns about the Wuhan lab.

Fox News previously reported EcoHealth's Peter Daszak, who worked closely with Dr. Shi on coronavirus research, was frequently cited in media reports and fact-checks that declared the lab-leak theory implausible and even "debunked." Many of those reports have since been corrected or updated.

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Published emails last month showed Daszak thanking Fauci in April 2020 for dispelling the lab-leak theory.

"I just wanted to say a personal thank you on behalf of our staff and collaborators, for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab from the Wuhan Insitute of Virology," he wrote.

Daszak was also one of the World Health Organization investigators who initially concluded the lab-leak theory was highly unlikely. 

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"It's like hiring Robert Kardashian to investigate O.J.," Rogin told Rogan.