During an appearance on CBS's Face the Nation, host Margaret Brennan asked the outgoing Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases about China's transparency regarding the origins of COVID-19 and their response to calls for investigation from around the world, Fox News reports.
"We keep a completely open mind as to what the origin is," Fauci said. "Having said that, if you look at the examination by highly qualified international scientists with no political agendas — they've published in peer-reviewed journals — that all accumulated evidence, particularly relating to the Chinese bringing into the Wuhan market animals from the wild that should not have been there … the evidence is quite strong that this is a natural occurrence."
"Does that mean we've ruled out that there was something funny going on and it leaked? Absolutely [not]," he added. "I and all of my colleagues keep an absolutely open mind. We've got to investigate every possibility because this is too important not to do that. That's not incompatible with saying the scientific evidence still weighs much more strongly that this is a natural occurrence."
He goes on to argue that China's refusal to cooperate in an investigation led to suspicion where there maybe shouldn't have been, but stops short of accusing them of a "cover-up."
The "lab-leak" theory has been a controversial topic since it was first suggested early on in the pandemic. The theory at one point was so vehemently denied by the government and mainstream media that Facebook disallowed any discussions suggesting it as a possibility.
In 2021, Biden reportedly terminated an investigation launched by Trump's secretary of state Mike Pompeo into the possibility of the COVID pandemic originating from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
More recently, opposition to the theory has softened, and scientists are beginning to speak up about the possibility that there is some truth to it. It was even alleged that WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus believes that a lab leak is the most likely source of the COVID-19 virus.
Fauci is due to be investigated by GOP lawmakers next year regarding his handling of the pandemic as well as his interactions with Chinese health authorities.
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