Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared to publicly break with Donald Trump on Monday as he shot down rumors that the coronavirus may have originated in a Chinese laboratory.
In an interview with National Geographic, the infectious disease expert and member of the White House coronavirus task force said that all evidence points to the prevailing theory that the virus was first transmitted to humans through bats.
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated. Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.”
Last week, Trump had publicly pushed the theory that the virus originated in a lab in China, saying he had seen evidence that it was not a natural transmission. Trump declined to reveal the source of this information when asked by a reporter, saying the information was too sensitive, via Sky News.
“I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
Others in the Trump administration have pushed the idea that the virus could have originated in a lab in Wuhan, spreading either accidentally or intentionally. Peter Navarro, a White House trade adviser, said last month that China must provide evidence that it did not start in a lab. Navarro also suggested that the notion of COVID-19 being created in a lab was the most logical conclusion, per The Hill.
“If you simply do an Occam’s razor approach that the simplest explanation is probably the most likely, I think it’s incumbent on China to prove that it wasn’t that lab.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also backed the theory that the virus started in a Chinese lab, saying there was “enormous evidence” pointing to this idea. Members of the Trump administration have also been increasingly criticizing China, accusing China of concealing the outbreak and withholding information from the international community.
In his interview this week, Fauci said it was a “circular argument” to claim that the virus spread from a lab, as this would still mean that it started in the wild at the beginning. Fauci’s position on the spread appeared to be backed by U.S. intelligence agencies. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement last week that concurred with “the wide scientific consensus” that the virus was not man-made or genetically modified.