A leaked Pentagon paper penned early in the pandemic indicates the U.S. government suspected all along that Fauci’s COVID-19 natural-origins theory may have been rubbish.
The paper, obtained and released this week by a COVID-19 origins research outfit, concluded that the arguments for a zoonotic origin advanced in the March 2020 paper commissioned and given final approval by retired National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci were “based not on scientific analysis, but on unwarranted assumptions.”
What’s the background?
Despite privately expressing uncertainty about the origin of the virus, there was a well-documented effort by Fauci and several of his peers — some with connections to the Wuhan lab and the dangerous research on coronaviruses undertaken there — to downplay the possibility that COVID-19 originated in a lab and to instead bolster then-unsubstantiated claims that the virus had naturally made the trans-species jump to humans.
The Blaze previously reported that many of the top scientists who were attempting to account for the origin of the furin cleavage site on the virus’ spike protein — responsible for its relatively high infectivity — were confronted with the strong possibility of human intervention.
Scripps Research Institute immunology professor Kristian G. Andersen, whose later claims are referenced in the newly leaked Pentagon paper, directed British evolutionary biologist and virologist Edward Holmes’ attention to the “furin cleavage site between the S1 and S2 junctions,” which had features characteristic of genetic engineering.
Some of Andersen’s colleagues were “bothered by the furin site” and had “a hard time explaining that as an event outside the lab.”
Michael Farzan, professor and chair at the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the Scripps Research Institute, reportedly suggested prior to the publication of the narrative-curing March paper, “A likely explanation could be something as simple as passaging SARS-like CoVs in tissue culture on human cell lines (under BSL-2) for an extended period time, accidentally creating a virus that would be primed for rapid transmission between humans via gain of furin site (from tissue culture) and adaptation to human ACE2 receptor via the repeated passage.”
Andersen raised the matter of a gain-of-function study that “looked like a how-to manual for building the Wuhan coronavirus in a laboratory.”
Notwithstanding these concerns and others that human meddling and/or a lab leak might be to blame for the pandemic that ultimately claimed more than 15 million lives worldwide, the scientists rushed out “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2,” which was ultimately published on March 17, 2020, in Nature Medicine — just one month after Andersen admitted, “We are at a crossroad where the scientific evidence isn’t conclusive enough to say that we have high confidence in any of the three main theories considered.”
An undisclosed counterpoint
Commander Jean-Paul Chretien, a Navy epidemiologist working at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Dr. Robert Greg Cutlip, a senior scientist at the Institute for Defense Analysis who previously worked as a senior research scientist with the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote a critique of the Fauci-endorsed natural-origins paper.
The paper was leaked to the public Monday by a research group that calls itself the “Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19.”
Chretien and Cutlip’s working paper, dated May 26, 2020, cast significant doubt on Andersen’s suggestion that the notable features of COVID-19 — namely the presence of key amino acids in the receptor binding domain not found in SARS-related coronaviruses and the furin cleavage site — arose naturally and not as the result of laboratory manipulation.
Rather, the authors noted that the features of the virus discussed by Andersen were “consistent with another scenario: that SARS-CoV-2 was developed in a laboratory, by methods that leading coronavirus researchers commonly use to investigate how the viruses infect cells and cause disease, assess the potential for animal coronaviruses to jump to humans, and develop drugs and vaccines.”
Chretien and Cutlip referenced a number of experiments that evidenced ways by which a similar virus could have been created, including a 2015 study examining “the disease potential of a SARS-like virus, SHC014-CoV,” which at the time had been circulating in Chinese horseshoe bat populations.”
This particular study, involving a virologist at the Wuhan lab believed to be the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, claimed to have reverse-engineered SARS-CoV to create a “chimeric virus” expressing the spike of a bat coronavirus in a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV backbone.
The Blaze previously noted that the 2015 study also resulted in the production of a strain that was able to “replicate efficiently in primary human airway cells.”
Chretien and Cutlip concluded their paper thusly: “The evidence Andersen et al. present does not lessen the plausibility of laboratory origin.”
Undesirable facts get sidelined
Prior to this working paper’s completion, Fauci had already successfully pitched his version of events to the American people. Fauci told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in March 2020 that COVID-19 was an animal virus that jumped on a human.
When asked during a White House press briefing on April 17, 2020, whether it was possible that the virus “came out of a laboratory in China,” Fauci answered in the negative, citing the paper without bothering to note he had commissioned, edited, and approved it.
In May 2020, around the time the Pentagon paper was timestamped, Fauci told National Geographic that there was “no scientific evidence” to suggest the virus had come from the Wuhan lab.