Psaki defends Fauci after unearthed emails, calling him 'undeniable asset'

Biden has asked the intelligence community to intensify efforts to find the origin of Covid-19

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Dr. Anthony Fauci as an "undeniable asset" to the country during the pandemic, after the release of thousands of his emails that provoked renewed Republican accusations he initially seemed to dismiss that Covid-19 could have originated in a lab. 

"He's been an undeniable asset in our country's pandemic response," Psaki said. "It's obviously not that advantageous for me to relitigate the substance of emails from 17 months ago."

She noted that President Biden had asked the intelligence community to intensify its efforts to find the origin of Covid-19 and get back to him in 90 days.

The emails were obtained by BuzzFeed and the Washington Post via a Freedom of Information Act request. 

In one email National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins sent Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a link to a Fox News report that gave credence to the theory coronavirus could have originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology with the subject line "conspiracy gains momentum." Fauci's response is entirely redacted. 

In a February 1, 2020 email, immunologist Kristian Andersen wrote to Fauci arguing the virus had "unusual features" that could suggest lab manipulation. Andersen and his team then looked into the theory further and their studies showed the virus was not a "laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus," according to the emails. 


One email reveals Fauci's back-and-forth on masks, though the NIAID director has admitted that part of the reason he initially told Americans they didn't need to wear a mask to protect themselves was to prevent them from buying up supply needed for hospitals. 

"Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection. The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through material," Fauci wrote on Feb. 5, 2020. "I do not recommend that you wear a mask."

Another email came to Fauci from Peter Daszak, who runs EcoHealth, which received millions in grants from the NIH, including a $600,000 grant from Fauci's agency, the NIAID, that it later paid to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to study the risk that bat coronaviruses could infect humans.


"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 origin for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology," Daszak said in an email. Fauci replied: "Many thanks for your kind note." 

Fauci has since said he is "keeping an open mind" about the virus' origins.