Who instigated the cover-up of the lab leak theory of Covid’s origins? Many of us have assumed it was Anthony Fauci, then-Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). However, newly released emails and messages indicate that initially Fauci was open to investigating the possibility of a lab leak properly. Following his now infamous February 1st 2020 teleconference with leading virologists Kristian Andersen, Eddie Holmes and others, Fauci wrote to several Government officials to inform them that Jeremy Farrar, the Director of the Wellcome Trust, and Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, had been tasked with contacting the WHO to set up an international investigation group into virus origins with “no judgement at all” on the outcome. “Where that leads remains to be seen,” he wrote.
Fauci writes that some of the scientists on the call deemed a lab origin possible or likely, doing so even “more strongly” after the call, while just two said they believed such a scenario could be ruled out (these were Ron Fouchier and Christian Drosten). Fauci thus presents the matter to Government colleagues as an unresolved scientific argument, with a number of scientists favouring a lab origin. The main course of action he proposes is to organise a group under the auspices of the WHO to look into it in an impartial way.
The following day, Collins wrote to Farrar to confirm he was following this up with WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Collins told Farrar he was “coming around to the view that a natural origin is more likely” but said it needed to be looked into by the WHO – though also added that he “shares your view” that this is mainly to be a “confidence-inspiring” initiative to pre-empt “voices of conspiracy” that would otherwise do “great potential harm to science and international harmony”. This does suggest a non-neutral political agenda being pursued, much more so than Fauci’s email of the day before, an agenda apparently being driven by Farrar.
What happened next is crucial. The impartial investigation Fauci proposed never took place. What happened instead was that on February 3rd – two days after the teleconference and Fauci’s email – another teleconference was convened, this one hosted by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS). This was in response to requests from the U.S. Government for scientific advice on the origin of the virus. Fauci was invited to give the “perspective from NIH/NIAID” ahead of an open discussion. The proposed output prior to the meeting appears to have been a “based on science” web posting, not unlike what Andersen and others were already working on.
However, the following day an email went out from Andrew Pope, an official in the NAS, saying the “plans have changed” and in place of a ‘based on science’ web posting there was now to be a statement signed by the Presidents of the three National Academies and sent to the Government. It appears that this change was what was agreed at the teleconference, though that is not completely clear as the email doesn’t specify who the “we” are who now think the original plan is not “appropriate”. What makes it likely it was agreed at the teleconference is that the email does not seem to expect anyone to object to the change and assumes all are on board with the new proposal.
As can be seen below, the statement from the NAS (in the form of a letter) claims to have consulted relevant scientific specialists (this presumably was what the teleconference was doing) and reports from them a consensus that the available genomic data are “consistent with natural evolution” and there is “no evidence” the virus was engineered. This is not a fair summary of the conversations the scientists were actually having at the time, of course. Rather, it represents a political effort to shut down the lab origin theory – the beginning of such an effort, in fact.
Kristian Andersen was involved in both the Fauci teleconference of February 1st and the NAS teleconference of February 3rd, and interestingly his contribution after the latter was to push for the statement to be stronger on rejecting the idea that the virus was engineered, claiming that the “data conclusively show” that it wasn’t. This is despite him being a key voice both before and after this arguing that a lab origin can’t be ruled out.
Andersen seemed to take a very different attitude two weeks later, when Nature rejected the first version of the ‘Proximal Origin’ paper because one of the reviewers (who was never publicly identified) said it was not strong enough on dismissing a lab origin. Andersen responded (on February 20th) with a robust defence of not dismissing the possibility of a lab origin, saying the evidence didn’t allow ruling it out and it “must be considered as a serious scientific theory”. It seems odd that this is the same scientist who was urging the NAS to go further in dismissing a lab origin. The most likely explanation is that Andersen is making an obscure distinction between an engineered virus and a virus that originated in a lab from serial passage through cell culture. This is a distinction that will be lost on most people, and indeed some of the scientists in the email discussions themselves said the distinction was not valid in this context. Andersen’s arguments ruling out engineering are also not sound.
The ‘Proximal Origin’ paper was then amended to reject a lab origin more strongly before being accepted for publication in Nature Medicine. Andersen told the House Pandemic Subcommittee that he had changed his view on the possibility of a lab origin between the rejection and re-submission, which must therefore have occurred between February 20th and 27th. However, as the team at Public have shown, it’s clear that Andersen did still think a lab origin (including engineering) was plausible after this date. On April 16th he wrote to his co-authors: “I’m still not fully convinced that no culture was involved. We also can’t fully rule out engineering (for basic research).” It’s apparent from Andersen’s messages that pressure to reject a lab origin came from ‘higher-ups’ and he was either feigning rejecting the theory or had artificially talked himself into it for a period of time.
So who did orchestrate the suppression of the lab origin theory? We can now see for the first time when precisely the cover-up began. It began with the NAS teleconference on February 3rd and not, as many have previously assumed, with the Fauci teleconference on February 1st. This is clear because while Fauci came away from his teleconference proposing an impartial investigation “with no judgement” to see “where that leads”, the outcome of the NAS teleconference was an explicit plan to dismiss a lab origin and artificially claim consensus.
Who made that decision? It seems to have been something agreed at the NAS teleconference. But who pushed it in that direction, and why did scientists like Andersen endorse it despite not really being in agreement? Indeed, Andersen and Co were still trying to get a lab theory into Nature on February 20th, only abandoning it because a hostile reviewer insisted the possibility be ruled out. So despite Andersen, Holmes and others stating at times in their private messages that they are keen to try to disprove the lab idea, they don’t appear to be the instigators of the cover-up.
It is possible Fauci suddenly changed his mind overnight, but it also seems unlikely, at least without some pressure put on him from elsewhere. So he does not seem to be the original source of the suppression idea, even if he soon became a ruthless enforcer of it – though we’d need to know more about his role at the NAS teleconference to know for sure.
It also seems unlikely to be the biodefence people like Robert Kadlec, as Kadlec was and continues to be a lab leak proponent, being the main author of the recent Muddy Waters Senate report pushing the theory. U.S. security services are known to have been involved in pushing lab origin theories right from the start of January 2020. Why they were doing that is not fully clear, but it may relate to wanting to paint China as the villain and upping the fear of the virus as a potential biological agent to allow activation of biodefence protocols. It’s fair to say that the clash between the security services pushing the lab origin theory and the suppression of that theory by other parts of the state, and even at times by the security services themselves, has been one of the more confusing aspects of the pandemic origin picture. It might be thought, for example, that the biodefence people would want to protect their biodefence research and not jeopardise it by convincing everyone that the virus could have come from such research. But this doesn’t appear to be the case, at least not for all of them.
So whom does that leave? Farrar seems a prime suspect, as it was him who seems to have been persuading Francis Collins of the importance of avoiding “harm to science and international harmony” by dismissing a lab origin. But a glance at the NAS teleconference invite list below indicates he doesn’t appear to have been involved (unless he was blind copied). EcoHealth Alliance’s Peter Daszak is on there, but why would he have authority to demand a cover-up? Ralph Baric is also there, whose paper with the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Shi Zhengli on manipulating coronaviruses had so startled Andersen. But what authority would he have in this group?
Perhaps then it was just a groupthink that took over during the teleconference out of a misplaced sense of needing to protect “science and international harmony”. But is groupthink really sufficient to explain such a powerful and sustained move to suppress the theory?
Despite all the effort that has gone into investigating Covid origins, this key question remains outstanding. Who ordered the cover-up?