White House says there is no circumstance where Biden would fire Fauci
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday doubled down on President Biden’s support for Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying there is no circumstance under which Biden would fire him.
Fauci, who is Biden’s chief medical adviser and the top US government infectious disease expert, is facing intense criticism after the release of emails showing his knowledge of and efforts to tamp down the Wuhan “lab leak” theory to explain the origins of COVID-19.
“Can you imagine any circumstance where President Biden would ever fire him?” a reporter asked Psaki at her daily press briefing.
“No,” she said.
Psaki called Fauci “a renowned public servant.”
“He’s overseen the management of multiple global health crises and attacks launched on him are certainly something we wouldn’t stand by,” Psaki said. “I understand there’s interest in the emails. He’s answered a lot of questions on the emails, I don’t think I’m gonna have much more to add on them from here.”
Psaki added: “I’m gonna let Dr. Fauci speak to his own defense of his emails from 17 months ago before this president even took office.”
Biden said earlier Friday that he’s standing by Fauci. “I’m very confident in Dr. Fauci,” the president told reporters as he departed Rehoboth Beach, Del., to return to the White House.
Biden last month ordered a 90-day review by US spy agencies of whether the virus could have emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, after facing weeks of pressure to pursue a robust US-led probe.
The lab-leak theory gained traction recently after the Wall Street Journal reported that three employees at the Wuhan lab fell so ill that they were hospitalized in November 2019 — just before the first reported COVID-19 cases.
A subsequent US intelligence community statement said one US spy agency “leans more toward” the lab leak theory, but that two others lean toward the explanation that the virus emerged naturally in animals.
A preliminary World Health Organization study controlled by China this year concluded the virus likely emerged naturally.
Emails released to news organizations under the Freedom of Information Act this week revealed Fauci’s communications last year with the director of the Chinese CDC and with the leader of a nonprofit that contracted with the Wuhan lab. They also revealed that a prominent researcher informed him in January 2020 that they believed the virus genome had signs of lab manipulation.
Peter Daszak, head of the EcoHealth Alliance, which used a $3.4 million US grant to do research at the Wuhan lab, wrote to Fauci in April 2020 that he was thankful that Fauci was publicly knocking the possibility of a lab leak.
“From my perspective, your comments are brave, and coming from your trusted voice, will help dispel the myths being spun around the virus’ origins,” Daszak wrote.
Fauci replied, “Many thanks for your kind note.”
But in January 2020, Fauci was warned by virus researcher Kristian Anderson of the Scripps Research lab in La Jolla, Calif., that COVID-19 had “unusual features.”
“The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered,” Andersen wrote.
In April 2020, Fauci emailed George Gao, head of the Chinese CDC, that “All is well despite some crazy people in this world.”
Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
Fauci previously came under fire for inconsistent public health guidance. For example, he did not promote mask-wearing in February, March and early April 2020 as COVID-19 spread in the US, despite the historical use of masks to counter airborne viruses and their successful early adoption in East Asia. But Fauci later pushed even wearing two masks at a time.