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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was “playing word games” about U.S. taxpayer money going to fund coronavirus research in Wuhan, China.
“The letter that I joined Senator Ron Johnson and a handful of other senators very specifically asks the National Institutes of Health why they were funding gain of function research in these Wuhan labs,” Cotton said. “Now, Dr. Fauci has been to Congress, and he said this absolutely did not happen. But Dr. Fauci is playing word games.”
“So, the money that the NIH gave went to an American organization, which turned around and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to these Wuhan labs to investigate coronaviruses and, yes, to find ways to make them more contagious and more dangerous,” Cotton continued. “And we asked Francis Collins, who’s Dr. Fauci’s boss, to come clean, to tell us exactly what was happening, why this research was being funded, as you point out, Maria, during a time in which the Obama administration had explicitly banned this kind of gain of function research, research into making some of the world’s deadliest pathogens even more dangerous.”
“And I think that there could be an example here of these public health bureaucrats thinking that they know better, that they’re not going to answer to political oversight and accountability, even in the Obama administration,” he concluded on the matter. “And they went ahead with this research that could be very dangerous. That’s why it is imperative that the NIH come clean and tell us exactly what happened.”
Stunning interview: @TomCottonAR details the latest evidence suggesting Covid19 escaped from a Chinese virology lab and demands the Biden admin start investigating; Cotton also unloads on Dr. Fauci for "playing word games" in explaining the NIH's role supporting this research. pic.twitter.com/A3hKcBw3Cl
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) May 24, 2021
Several fact-checkers have looked into the debate over the Wuhan lab funding. An excerpt of FactCheck.org’s findings in a May 21, 2021 report below:
At issue is whether the National Institutes of Health funded research on bat coronaviruses that could have caused a pathogen to become more infectious to humans and, separately, if SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 — transferred naturally from bats to humans, possibly through an intermediate host animal, or if a virus, a naturally occurring one or a lab-enhanced one, was accidentally released from the Wuhan lab.
There are a lot of unknowns, speculation and differences of opinion on these topics. But let’s start with what we do know: In 2014, the NIH awarded a grant to the U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance to study the risk of the future emergence of coronaviruses from bats. In 2019, the project was renewed for another five years, but it was canceled in April 2020 — three months after the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in the U.S.
EcoHealth ultimately received $3.7 million over six years from the NIH and distributed nearly $600,000 of that total to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, a collaborator on the project, pre-approved by NIH.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): If it is confirmed that roads around that lab were shut down for a number of days in mid-October, it is highly coincidental that there was a major shutdown of those roads at about the time one might have expected this virus to first get transmitted to humans, whatever the origins may have been.
But this would be another piece of piece of circumstantial evidence that there was some kind of accident or outbreak from those labs, not from the seafood market or anywhere else. That’s why it’s so important we get to the bottom of this data.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA BARTIROMO, SUNDAY MORNING FUTURES ANCHOR: And that was Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton on this program in May of last year addressing something that he picked up, that there was no cell phone activity or major road activity — they were all closed — around the Wuhan Lab of Virology in October of 2019.
This is a very busy area of Wuhan. To have no cell phone activity is a real red flag.
Congressman Devin Nunes calls this shutdown exculpatory evidence in his new report on the origins of COVID-19. We told you about that report coming out. It was released this past Wednesday.
Joining me right now is the first lawmaker to go on the record right here in — on this program back in February of 2020 and suggest that COVID-19 could have leaked from that Wuhan Lab of Virology, Senator Tom Cotton.
Senator, you have done great value for our viewers by your honesty and telling it like it is. Thank you for that.
Do you still stand by what you said, and what have you learned in the last year about this situation?
COTTON: Yes, Maria, it’s hard to believe it’s been 15 months since you and I first discussed what I think most Arkansans think is a very commonsense proposition, that is surely as a big coincidence that this virus started not up in some remote mountain village with caves full of bats, but rather in downtown Wuhan, a city larger than New York, just a few blocks up the road from labs that was researching bat-based coronaviruses.
And, since then, every bit of circumstantial evidence, to include evidence that came out in the final days of the Trump administration, that some employees and staff at these labs may have had coronavirus-like symptoms as early as October or September of 2019, continues to point to these labs as the origin of this virus, not that food market that the Chinese Communist Party used as a cover story from the very beginning.
That’s why it’s so imperative that the Biden administration hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable and demand answers for all of these questions.
BARTIROMO: But he’s not, Senator. You know that.
We’re talking about all of the things that’s coming out of the Biden administration. You’re going to be debating another bill this week on not having people invest in Chinese companies that are tied to the military.
And yet the administration just removed one technology company from the Trump blacklist, and it pushed out, postponed the ban on trading stocks of companies that are tied to the Chinese military. What’s going on? The Biden administration keeps giving the Chinese Communist Party a break and rolling over for the CCP.
We have a timeline of events here on the history of the gain of function research. And what we have on our timeline is that there was a pause in this research, and then the pause was lifted in 2017.
Let’s take a look at this research and funding of gain of function, which you raise in a letter that you sent to Director Francis Collins of the NIH. Tell me what you want answered. You have got 17 questions here. You and six other senators signed this letter to Francis Collins.
COTTON: Well, Maria, Joe Biden’s been rolling over for aggressors around the world, not just China, but Russia and Iran. And, this week, he seemed to draw moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas when he began to demand a cease-fire.
But the letter that I joined Senator Ron Johnson and a handful of other senators on very specifically asks the National Institutes of Health why they were funded — funding gain of function research in these Wuhan labs.
Now, Dr. Fauci has been to Congress, and he said this absolutely did not happen. But Dr. Fauci is playing word games. So, the money that the NIH gave went to an American organization, which turned around and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to these Wuhan labs to investigate coronaviruses and, yes, to find ways to make them more contagious and more dangerous.
And we asked Francis Collins, who’s Dr. Fauci’s boss, to come clean, to tell us exactly what was happening, why this research was being funded, as you point out, Maria, during a time in which the Obama administration had explicitly banned this kind of gain of function research, research into making some of the world’s deadliest pathogens even more dangerous.
And I think that there could be an example here of these public health bureaucrats thinking that they know better, that they’re not going to answer to political oversight and accountability, even in the Obama administration. And they went ahead with this research that could be very dangerous.
COTTON: That’s why it is imperative that the NIH come clean and tell us exactly what happened.
BARTIROMO: You talk about those word games that Fauci was playing.
In fact, we know that a gentlemen named Peter Daszak was running or runs the Health Eco Alliance, the alliance that — the nonprofit that took money from the NIH and sent it over to Wuhan.
Here’s Peter Daszak, who runs that alliance, talking about coronavirus. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: You say these are diverse coronaviruses and you can’t vaccinate against them. There are no antivirals.
What do we do?
PETER DASZAK, PRESIDENT, ECOHEALTH ALLIANCE: Well, I think coronavirus is a really good — I mean, you’re a virologist. You know all this stuff. But they — you can manipulate them in the lab pretty easily.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARTIROMO: You can manipulate the coronavirus easily, he’s telling us in December of 2019.
And, by the way, after I spoke with you and others who suggested it likely came from the lab, I sent out a tweet talking about to promote our show and the things that I found out, and Peter Daszak trashes me on Twitter, saying I know nothing.
Meanwhile, here we are, a year later. Obviously, it’s likely that it came from the lab. What do you make of what took place here?
COTTON: Well, I think a lot of these so-called experts and scientific bureaucrats are trying to cover their tracks.
And, yes, this could be a genuine scandal. This could be public health bureaucrats violating explicit direction from the Obama White House to continue research that is highly, highly dangerous, and potentially susceptible to escape from a laboratory, especially laboratory in China that has notoriously bad safety practices.
But, of course, a year ago, Maria, Donald Trump was still in the White House, and the press didn’t want to say anything that would maybe help him get reelected or to confirm what people like I was saying, if they — since they say don’t like my politics.
I guess, now that Joe Biden’s in the White House, they’re willing to investigate a little bit deeper. It’s just an example once again of how the press has become deeply partisan in our day.
BARTIROMO: Senator, real quick, before we go — we only have a couple of seconds here — but in terms of the domestic policy, President Biden is talking about more requirements for the financial services sector, which, initially, giving $80 billion to the IRS is his idea, which would help the banks give the Treasury direct access into our bank accounts.
What’s going on here? Does he want surveillance of our bank accounts now?
COTTON: Yes, he wants to give tens of billions of dollars to the IRS, the organization where Lois Lerner used the bureaucracy to persecute Christian groups and conservative groups, so they can track the money that you have in your checking account or your savings account or your 401(k).
Suffice to say, I don’t think many Republicans are going to support that in the Congress.
Senator, we will keep talking with you. Got to catch up with you on finding out where all of this legislation is going.
Thanks very much for being here this morning, sir.
COTTON: Thank you, Maria.
BARTIROMO: Appreciate it, Senator Tom Cotton.