Fauci, Paul clash on virus origins, trade charges of lying

U.S.

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, angrily confronted Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday in testimony on Capitol Hill, rejecting Paul’s insinuation that the U.S. helped fund research at a Chinese lab that could have sparked the COVID-19 outbreak.

Paul suggested that Fauci had lied before Congress when in May he denied that the National Institutes of Health funded so-called “gain of function” research — the practice of enhancing a virus in a lab to study its potential impact in the real world — at a Wuhan virology lab. U.S. intelligence agencies are currently exploring theories that an accidental leak from that lab could have led to the global pandemic.

“I have not lied before Congress. I have never lied. Certainly not before Congress. Case closed,” Fauci told Paul before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, saying a study the senator mentioned referenced a different sort of virus entirely from the one responsible for the coronavirus outbreak.

“Senator Paul, you do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly,” Fauci said. “And I want to say that officially. You do not know what you’re talking about.”

He added, “If anybody is lying here, senator, it is you.”

It was the latest in a series of clashes between Paul and Fauci over the origins of the virus that caused the global pandemic.

Biden in late May called on aides to investigate the origins of the virus and to report back to him within 90 days. The more prevalent theory is that the virus originated in animals, possibly bats, and was passed on to humans.

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 20: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. The committee will hear testimony about the Biden administration’s ongoing plans to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and Delta variant. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

The more contagious Delta variant was first found in India earlier this year. It has since become the dominant version of the virus in the United States and many other countries. It has been detected in more than 90 nations worldwide.

Deaths from COVID-19 in the United States have averaged 239 per day over the past week, nearly 48% higher than the previous week, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during the hearing.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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