A fiery exchange erupted in a Senate hearing on the COVID-19 crisis this morning when U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci confronted crackpot libertarian Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) for promoting xenophobic conspiracy theories.
Ever since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, paranoid xenophobes have floated the baseless conspiracy that the COVID-19 virus was deliberately created inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology and unleashed upon the world as some sort of dastardly Communist plot. Sen. Rand Paul pushed a version of this conspiracy during today’s hearing, focusing on the unfounded accusations that the Wuhan Insitute of Virology was conducting “gain of function” research — deliberately increasing the infectiousness and transmission rates of viruses for scientific purposes — and accusing the U.S. government of having funded that research.
At the heart of the issue is some $700,000 that the Wuhan Institute of Virology received during the Trump administration as part of a National Health Institute $3.7 million grant, which Rand Paul asserted had been used to fund “gain of function” research and the development of COVID-19 itself.
In his usual obnoxious and insufferable fashion, Sen. Paul argued several times that NIH funding was linked to “gain of function” research in Wuhan, despite there being little evidence that that is the case, and was decisively smacked down by Dr. Fauci each time:
“Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect that the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan institute” boomed Dr. Fauci in irritation.
"We have not funded gain of function research on this virus in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. No matter how many times you say it, it didn't happen." — Fauci to Rand Paul pic.twitter.com/f0kMzGeP1B
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 11, 2021
You don’t have to go very far down the rabbit hole to figure out where these conspiracy theories come from, as demonstrated by media accountability expert Matt Negrin in a tweet.
"Fauci funded Wuhan covid" is a Newsmax conspiracy theory that the news media has helped spread:
— Matt Negrin, HOST OF HARDBALL AT 7PM ON MSNBC (@MattNegrin) May 11, 2021
Hate crimes against Asian-Americans have skyrocketed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in large part fuelled by these xenophobic conspiracy theories demonizing China and blaming it for the COVID-19 virus. It’s infuriating to see these kinds of conspiracy theories being repeated in the halls of Congress, especially from men who are ostensibly medical professionals!