8 key points from Dr Anthony Fauci’s testimony before Congress: From Covid origins to death threats

8 key points from Dr Anthony Fauci’s testimony before Congress: From Covid origins to death threats
Dr Anthony Fauci testified on Monday, June 3, at a House subcommittee hearing about the US response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the origins of the virus (Getty Images)

Dr Anthony Fauci’s Covid-19 testimony: 8 takeaways including lab leak theory and death threats

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 11: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infect
Dr Anthony Fauci testified before Congress on Monday, June 3, addressing allegations of pandemic-related blunders (Getty Images)

Dr Anthony Fauci made several key disclosures during his testimony before Congress on Monday, June 3, as Republicans attempted to impute pandemic-related missteps to him. The hearing represented the culmination of extensive efforts to ascertain the origins of Covid, identify blunders during the pandemic response, and attain resolution on the policies that impacted American citizens during that period. However, obtaining answers to these inquiries proved challenging during the 3.5-hour hearing before the House Select Subcommittee. Attired in a dark suit and tie, Dr Fauci maintained his composure as he fielded inquiries regarding his position as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director then. Scrutiny against Fauci centered on whether his agency was involved in risky gain-of-function research, his association with colleagues' impropriety, and his involvement in formulating Covid policies. Congressional tensions boiled over, resulting in outbursts among lawmakers directed at Dr Fauci, as Congress revisited one of the most difficult eras in recent memory. Here are the most notable moments from Monday’s hearing.

1. Dr Fauci claims to have an 'open mind' about the origins of Covid-19

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29:  Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and I
Dr Anthony Fauci acknowledged that Covid could be manmade and the virus may have come from a laboratory (Getty Images)

The House hearing on Monday failed to determine the origin of the coronavirus pandemic unequivocally. According to intelligence reports, including those from the FBI, it is believed that the virus likely originated from a laboratory leak in Wuhan, China. Dr Fauci acknowledged the possibility that the illness could be manmade and may have come from a laboratory. He insisted that he had an open mind about the virus's origin and confirmed that the lab leak theory is a real possibility. Fauci said, “I keep an open mind as to what the origin is.” Fauci stated during Monday's hearing that the lab leak theory, which suggests that Covid originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), is a genuine “possibility.” His admission that Covid might have started at the WIV comes four years after he supported the release of a paper that dismissed the lab leak theory, known as the 'Proximal Origin' paper. Furthermore, during his testimony, Dr Fauci denied having a hand in the publication of the aforementioned paper that suggested the likely origin of Covid came from an animal reservoir. Additionally, he claimed that when he first heard concerns about the virus possibly being manipulated in January 2020, he encouraged further investigation and urged scientists to share their findings with the FBI. However, in a February 9, 2020, interview with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Dr Fauci dismissed the theory that Covid could have escaped from a lab, referring to it as a “conspiracy theory” on three occasions within a single sentence. “I've heard these conspiracy theories, and like all conspiracy theories, Newt, they're just conspiracy theories,” he claimed at the time.

2. Six-foot social distancing rule has 'no science' according to Dr Fauci

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27:  National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony F
Dr Anthony Fauci denied responsibility for the initial recommendation of the six-foot social distancing rule during the Covid-19 pandemic (Getty Images)

The former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) disclaimed responsibility for the initial recommendation of the six-foot social distancing rule during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Dr Fauci previously testified in a closed-door session in January that he was uncertain about the origins of the six-foot social distancing mandate, stating that the rule “sort of just appeared". Transcripts of these closed-door interviews were disclosed just last week given the House hearing that was scheduled for Monday, June 3. In January, Dr Fauci acknowledged that he “was not aware of” supportive studies for the social distancing measures, arguing that such studies “would be very difficult” to carry out. During Monday's hearing, Dr Fauci clarified his previous statements. He affirmed to the congressional committee that the six-foot distancing guidance had been derived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite acknowledging that the CDC's guidance lacked a basis in established science, he emphasized its implementation. “My saying there was no science behind it, means there was no clinical trial that proved that,” Fauci explained.

3. Dr Fauci acknowledges masking children didn’t prevent the spread of Covid-19

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 30: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infec
Dr Anthony Fauci testified there were no prior studies supporting the use of masks for children to prevent Covid (Getty Images)

Dr Anthony Fauci's testimony before the House Select Committee in January indicated a lack of recollection regarding studies or data supporting the use of masks for children to prevent Covid. He later clarified that there were no specific studies conducted on masking children before, attributing this to the urgency of responding to a high fatality epidemic. “There was no study that did masks on kids before,” he testified. Fauci claimed that “you couldn't do the study,” because “you had to respond to an epidemic that was killing 4,000 - 5,000 Americans per day.” Despite the necessity of implementing mask mandates for children during the outbreak, Dr Fauci did acknowledge that subsequent studies have recorded negative impacts on children due to prolonged mask-wearing. Additionally, the long-term implementation of social distancing guidelines and mask mandates is noted to have significantly impacted various aspects of American life and culture. Studies have documented adverse effects such as learning loss and social setbacks, including negative impacts on students' literacy and learning due to prolonged mask use, as well as psychological effects such as “depression, generalized anxiety, acute stress, and intrusive thoughts” resulting from social distancing measures, per an NIH study.

4. Dr Fauci tries distancing himself from aides attempting to circumvent federal transparency laws

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 04:  National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthon
Dr Anthony Fauci attempted to distance himself from aides who violated federal transparency laws (Getty Images)

Dr Fauci distanced himself from aides who skirted federal transparency laws. Furthermore, he sought to disassociate himself from his former senior advisor, Dr David Morens, who testified before the committee on May 22. Morens admitted to deleting files and using his personal email to avoid Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which drew disapproval from the lawmakers on the panel. The House Select Committee’s subpoenaed emails revealed that Morens assisted coronavirus researcher Dr Peter Daszak with public relations issues and worked to reinstate his grant funding from the NIAID after it was revoked. The grant was initially pulled because Daszak's nonprofit, EcoHealth Alliance, was conducting coronavirus research at the WIV during the outbreak, violating the NIAID's grant agreement. Morens, who referred to Daszak as his “best friend,” edited press releases for EcoHealth and reassured Daszak that he and other NIAID officials would safeguard the researcher's interests. At one point, Morens even solicited a “kickback” from the millions of dollars in grant funding the researcher received from the agency for which the former Fauci aide worked. Morens also mentioned to Daszak that he had a “secret back channel” to communicate sensitive matters to Fauci privately, away from the public and journalists, whom Morens disapproved of. In an email, Morens suggested that he could forward NIAID-related matters to Fauci using both of their personal email accounts.

5. Dr Fauci denies using his personal email for ‘official business’

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 31:  Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Inf
Dr Anthony Fauci stated that his former senior advisor, Dr David Morens' conduct was 'inappropriate' and violated federal law (Getty Images)

Nevertheless, Dr Anthony Fauci refuted using his personal email for "official business," stating that it was "to the best of my knowledge." “I knew nothing of Dr Morens' actions regarding EcoHealth,” Fauci asserted during Monday's hearing. He further explained that Morens “definitely” had a conflict of interest in his employment with Daszak. Fauci noted that Morens' conduct was “inappropriate” and breached federal law.

6. Marjorie Taylor Greene accuses Dr Anthony Fauci of ‘lying’

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 22: U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks during a court trial on April 2
Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene accused Dr Anthony Fauci of lying and advocated his imprisonment for crimes against humanity (Getty Images)

Monday’s House hearing erupted when MAGA-aligned Congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, confronted Dr Anthony Fauci saying that she felt he was lying and that he “belongs in prison.” “We should be recommending you to be prosecuted ... for crimes against humanity,” the Georgia Republican remarked. She further stated that his "repulsive, evil science" forced schoolchildren to attend class wearing masks, which had a negative affect on them. Newcomer Rep Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) chastised Greene for her “ridiculous” attacks against Fauci. Garcia stated that this has been the most raucous conference in his 1.5 years in Congress. The firebrand Republican then showed Fauci a picture of him maskless during Covid at a baseball game. “Do you think that's appropriate...Mr Fauci, because you're not a doctor in my few minutes...that man does not deserve to have a license. As a matter of a fact it should be revoked and he belongs in prison,” Greene said. Rep Greene's disruptive behavior drew criticism from Democrats and briefly led the House Select Committee chair, Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) to raise his voice in an attempt to restore order. Following the chairman's intervention, a female member of the audience, dressed in white, began to loudly confront Dr Fauci.

7. Audience member abruptly starts yelling at Dr Fauci

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 31: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectiou
During the House Select Committee hearing, a female audience member dressed in white confronted Dr Anthony Fauci, leading Capitol Police to intervene and ask her to exit the building (Getty Images)

A female audience member present during Monday’s House Select Committee hearing directed a verbal outburst at Dr Anthony Fauci, prompting Capitol Police to intervene and request her departure, under the threat of arrest. As she complied, she was reproached by Rep Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who advised her to swiftly exit with her Starbucks beverage.

8. Dr Fauci breaks down recalling death threats that came his way

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 20: Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci responds to accusations by
Dr Anthony Fauci faced death threats for being a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in 2020 (Getty Images)

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), inquired about the personal hardships that Dr Fauci faced in his capacity on the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Fauci replied, “Myself, my three daughters, they have had credible death threats, leading to the arrests of different individuals.” “Credible death threats meaning someone who clearly was on their way to killing,” he recounted. “It's very troublesome to me,” he went on to say. “It is even more troublesome because they involve my wife.” Dr Fauci claimed such dangers necessitated his family to have “Protective Services essentially all the time".

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