Kelly Hawes

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise seems convinced Dr. Anthony Fauci is part of some huge conspiracy.

“The truth is out,” he tweeted. “Fauci’s emails show he suspected early on that COVID-19 possibly leaked from the Wuhan lab — yet he stayed silent. This is a major cover-up. We need a full congressional investigation into the origins of COVID-19.”

Actually, the emails show no such thing.

What they really show is the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert working ridiculously long hours in an effort to get out the truth about the coronavirus.

Buzzfeed reported an email exchange in the early days of the pandemic with someone wanting to know whether pneumonia vaccines could provide protection against severe COVID-19. Fauci responded in detail about an hour later.

“Oh my god,” the person wrote back. “I honestly never expected you to reply, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so generous.”

That’s the Fauci many Americans came to love and respect during this public health crisis.

Guys like Scalise, though, see something else in all those emails. They see the message Fauci received more than a year ago from an executive at EcoHealth Alliance, the global organization that helped to fund research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. In that message, the executive thanked Fauci for saying publicly that scientific evidence seemed to support a natural origin for the virus rather than a release from a lab.

CNN’s John Berman asked Fauci about that discussion during an interview on CNN’s New Day.

“There are some of your critics who say this shows you have too cozy of a relationship with the people behind the Wuhan lab research,” Berman said. “What do you say to that?”

Fauci didn’t hold back.

“That’s nonsense,” he said. “I don’t even see how they get that from that email.”

He pointed out that the origins of the coronavirus remain uncertain.

“I have always said, and will say today to you, John, that I still believe the most likely origin is from an animal species to a human,” he told Berman, “but I keep an absolutely open mind that if there may be other origins of that, there may be another reason. It could have been a lab leak.”

Fauci keeps an open mind. He looks for scientific evidence. That’s what scientists do.

“You can misconstrue it however you want,” Fauci said. “That email was from a person to me saying ‘thank you’ for whatever it is he thought I said, and I said that I think the most likely origin is a jumping of species. I still do think it is. At the same time as I’m keeping an open mind that it might be a lab leak.”

It’s at least worth noting that two researchers going to the hospital with respiratory issues in the middle of cold and flu season might not be the smoking gun some folks think it is.

Fauci didn’t hide his frustration when Berman asked about another email exchange, this one with Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. Berman noted that much of the message had been redacted, and he asked whether Fauci remembered the substance.

“They only took about 10,000 emails from me,” Fauci said. “Of course, I remember. I remember all 10,000 of them. Give me a break.”

Again, though, the doctor said what he thought.

“I don’t remember what’s in that redacted,” he said, “but the idea, I think, is quite farfetched that the Chinese deliberately engineered something so that they could kill themselves as well as other people. I think that’s a bit far out, John.”

Conspiracy theorists like Scalise won’t pay attention, of course. They already have all the evidence they need.

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana. He can be reached at Find him on Twitter @Kelly_Hawes.

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