Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Thursday said America's top infectious disease doctor Anthony Fauci should take responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic — and resign.
In a bitter confrontation at a Senate Health Committee hearing, Paul accused Fauci of changing the definition of gain-of-function research on the website of the National Institutes of Health in order to "save your ass."
"Until you accept responsibility … you won’t admit that [gain-of-function research] is dangerous and for that lack of judgment I think it’s time you resign," Paul said.
Paul argued Fauci misled the public about the role the NIH played in funding potentially dangerous gain-of-function research in Wuhan, China, suggesting the SARS-CoV-2 virus was the result of such research, and then was released because of a lab leak.
He’s also blamed Fauci for helping fund some research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology with grant money sent through a nonprofit called EcoHealth Alliance.
"You have said I am unwilling to take any responsibility for the current pandemic. I have no responsibility for the current pandemic," Fauci said in his response.
Gain-of-function is a controversial method where researchers make a pathogen more infectious, often to develop more effective treatments and vaccines.
"The preponderance of evidence points to this coming from a lab," Paul said at the committee hearing. "Your persistent denials are a clear and present danger to the country and the world."
An investigation into the origins of the virus conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies broadly agreed the virus was not developed as a biological weapon or through genetic engineering, but the true origins may never be known, The Hill noted.
Both a lab leak and natural origination are plausible, the report found, but neither can be proved definitively.
When given time to respond to Paul's attack, a frustrated Fauci said he wouldn't have time to refute all of the claims he disputed.
"There were so many things that were egregious misrepresentations here," Fauci said.
"As usual, I have a great deal of respect for this body, the Senate, and it makes me very uncomfortable to have to say something, but he is egregiously incorrect in what he says," Fauci said.
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