While most corporate media outlets are throwing softballs at Dr. Anthony Fauci over revelations that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded risky gain-of-function research in Wuhan, China, Fauci's 'boss' - NIH Director Francis Collins - wasn't so lucky.
In a blistering Sunday night interview, CNN's Pamela Brown (credit where it's due) absolutely grilled Collins over the NIH's funding of New York-based nonprofit, EcoHealth alliance, which performed textbook Gain of Function research - genetically engineering bat coronaviruses so they can infect humans. Last week the NIH admitted that EcoHealth violated the terms of a grant by failing to report their achievement (which EcoHealth denies), sending both Fauci and Collins into full damage control over the weekend.
Now, the official story is that while EcoHealth violated their contract, and are allegedly 'in trouble' for failing to report their achievement, the NIH and NIAID (Collins and Fauci) maintain that the research still wasn't risky enough to qualify for enhanced oversight.
CNN's Brown didn't let Collins get away with his carefully crafted talking points - repeatedly pressing him over what else the NIH may be funding that they don't know about, and asking why the American people should trust them after last week's revelation.
Breaking down the interview is Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin - who in March revealed in his book: "Chaos Under Heaven: Trump, Xi, and the Battle for the Twenty-First Century" that the (NIH) "had funded a number of projects that involved WIV scientists, including much of the Wuhan lab's work with bat coronaviruses." In April, Rogin revealed that in 2018, diplomats with the US State Department warned over safety issues at Wuhan labs studying bat COVID. In short - few journalists are as qualified as Rogin to opine on what's going on.
Jumping right into it (video at the bottom):
Brown repeatedly presses Collins to explain how NIH could not know FOR TWO YEARS that its own contractor @EcoHealthNYC had done research making bat coronaviruses more infectious to humans, and Collins uses every rhetoric trick to dissemble and distract... I'll explain...— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) October 26, 2021
Continued via threadreaderapp (emphasis ours):
Brown repeatedly presses Collins to explain how NIH could not know FOR TWO YEARS that its own contractor @EcoHealthNYC had done research making bat coronaviruses more infectious to humans, and Collins uses every rhetoric trick to dissemble and distract... I'll explain...
Fauci claimed no "Gain of Function research was being funded in Wuhan.
Brown to Collins: “How could [Fauci] say that when you are just now finding out that US taxpayer dollars were being used to pay for this risky research in that Wuhan lab two years ago?" GOOD QUESTION
Collins tries to go down a rabbit hole semantic debate about the definition of gain of function (this is his usual filibuster tactic), but Brown stops him and asks the direct question again:
Brown: “EcoHealth Alliance violated the terms of its contract... So the question is.. How can you know what this money is going toward… in places the Wuhan lab if you are just now finding this out from EcoHealth Alliance, how the US taxpayer dollars were being used?" EXACTLY.
Collins acknowledges EcoHealth violated its contract but then says, weirdly:
"Yes, they did some things they should have told us about, but they did not do the kind of Gain of Function research that requires special, high level oversight." WTAF?
The whole point of the NIH letter to Congress was that if EcoHealth HAD reported its research results, it WOULD HAVE triggered the extra, high level oversight. Why is Collins pretending he knows they would have been exempt from that?
Then Collins constructs and attacks a straw man by saying: “This was in no way connected with the advent of SARS-CoV-2."
Brown points out he's refuting an assertion nobody made. She steers the interview back to the issue at hand, why didn't NIH know what they were funding?
Brown: “There was risky research being conducted in that lab with US taxpayer dollars that NIH was unaware of and is just now finding out. So it raises the question of what other risky experiments could be going on with US taxpayer funding that you don't know about." PRECISELY
Collins responds he doesn't think this kind of lax reporting is widespread. "This particular grantee is in trouble for not being completely transparent about the work they were doing and we are very much following up on that.” No specifics.
Brown presses Collins (again) to acknowledge NIH has some responsibility for not knowing it was funding this research: “Isn’t this also an oversight failure of the NIH, because the NIH is responsible for taking taxpayer money and giving these grants." OF COURSE IT IS...
This time, Collins actually blames Congress for preventing NIH from interacting with sub=grantees (the Wuhan lab), completely sidestepping why NIH didn't ask EcoHealth (the primary grantee) for its Wuhan report FOR TWO YEARS, while a pandemic raged coming from Wuhan...
Brown presses Collins to on the core issue:“Why should Americans trust you and the NIH on the issue of covid origins, when you didn’t even know about the programs it was funding with taxpayer dollars in China?" LOGICAL QUESTION
First, Collins basically makes the argument that most of the planes landed safely so nothing to see here:
“Well, that’s a little too strong, Pam... The vast majority of what they did was what we gave them permission to do.”
Then Collins makes what seems to me to be a sexist comment to Brown
“So please, relax here." (seems sexist)
"This is not a circumstance where I think you could say there was a major failure that could put human lives at risk.” (A bold if not misleading assertion)
Brown stands her ground, defends her legitimate and sensible questions:
"It certainly raises questions about transparency and oversight by the NIH of where this grant money goes… Will the NIH now pull funding from EcoHealth Alliance?"
Collins misleads again, saying the EcoHealth funding in Wuhan was cut off (true) but neglecting to mention that NIH and NIAID have awarded EcoHealth Alliance millions more in other contracts since then for other stuff. Some accountability...
This Collins statement struck me as the most audacious:
"The last thing that needs to happen now is any sense that we are not revealing everything that we know.”
NIH is currently ignoring several Congressional requests for information and record about its work in China....
Brown ends with a simple and true statement:
“This is US taxpayer dollars going to risky research and I believe every American deserves to know about it.”