Two of the most significant articles promoting the “natural origins” theory for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak’s origins originated from scientists who were part of a response team of “experts” brought in by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine (NASEM) and coordinated by Dr. Anthony Fauci with the help of Peter Daszak.
The articles were produced in response to a request from then-White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Kelvin Droegemeier. They were used extensively by media organizations to push the “natural origins” theory and deride alternative theories – including the now resurgent lab leak theory – as conspiracy theories.
The two articles look to be part of a coordinated effort stemming from a Feb. 1, 2020 teleconference organized by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Fauci and British Wellcome Trust director Jeremey Farrar. This conference was reportedly put together to respond to public reporting of a potential connection between COVID-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China.
Following the conference, the lab leak theory was actively downplayed by mainstream media, social media platforms, health officials and the World Health Organization (WHO).
One of the articles, “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2,” published in the journal Nature on March 17, 2020, targeted the scientific community. This article was led by “corresponding author” Dr. Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute in California and along with four other researchers. Of the five scientists credited with the article, four had directly participated in the Fauci-Farrar teleconference.
More interesting is the other article, which was published earlier on Feb. 19, 2020, and written as an open letter to the public. According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by U.S. Right to Know, EcoHealth President Daszak drafted the letter calling for “solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China.”
It has since come out that EcoHealth has received $3.7 million in funding from the NIAID. Of this, at least $600,000 was funneled to the WIV for virus research. (Related: EcoHealth Alliance president thanked Fauci for downplaying lab leak hypothesis.)
In his letter, Daszak noted that the sharing of data on the pandemic was being threatened by “rumours and misinformation around its origins.”
“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” states the letter signed by 27 scientists.
The recently released emails of Fauci, obtained by FOIA request, shed more light on the purpose of the meetings. They reveal that the teleconference was prompted by the publication of an article in Science that referenced a Nov. 9, 2015 article in Nature about gain of function experiments in viruses at the WIV that were funded by the NIAID.
Fauci, alongside Daszak, was present at a later meeting with NASEM called by Droegemeier where the former made a 10-minute presentation.
Other FOIAed emails show how much work was done to draw attention away from EcoHealth’s and the funding sent to WIV. In one email, Daszak tells Ralph Baric, a virologist who collaborated on gain of function experiments with WIV director She Zheng-Li, to refrain from signing his open letter.
“I also think this is a good decision,” replied Baric, who was also the corresponding author of the 2015 Nature article. “Otherwise it looks self-serving and we lose impact.”
In addition, Daszak sent an email to those privy to the early drafts of the letter that it would not include EcoHealth’s logo.
“Please note that this statement will not have EcoHealth Alliance logo on it and will not be identifiable as coming from any one organization or person, the idea is to have this as a community supporting our colleagues,” he wrote.
In addition, an earlier email showed that Daszak was mulling not signing the statement so that “it has some distance from us and therefore doesn’t work in a counterproductive way.”
“We’ll then put it out in a way that doesn’t link it back to our collaboration so we maximize an independent voice,” he added.
Daszak eventually changed his mind, becoming one of the signatories to the letter.