Leaked Slack/email exchanges prove scientists lied about COVID origins

They lied, and we have the receipts.

To be clear, anybody with half a brain suspected they lied, and those of us willing to admit it KNEW they lied.

It’s just the receipts that are new. But reading them is oddly satisfying. Satisfying enough that I had to share them with friends who think I am a conspiracy theorist.

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The particular lie to which I am referring is the fake “consensus” that Anthony Fauci manufactured that the COVID virus escaped into the human population from an animal, likely at the Wuhan Wet Market. That consensus was manufactured by forcing scientists who privately believed that the virus was possibly engineered and almost certainly escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

They were enlisted to do so because they made the mistake of telling Anthony Fauci they suspected this. He bullied them into writing a paper that was published in Nature asserting the opposite. As The Nation pointed out, the article was a cornerstone of the Fauci/CDC messaging on COVID:

Since its publication, the “Proximal Origin” paper has been accessed online more than 5 million times. It has been widely cited in the media. And key government officials—including then-NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—have promoted it in public venues.

After the paper’s publication, for instance, Collins touted it in a March 2020 blog post on the NIH’s website, writing that “this study leaves little room to refute a natural origin for COVID-19.” Roughly a month later, in April 2020, Collins e-mailed Fauci lamenting the fact that the lab leak theory continued to gain traction.

“Wondering if there is something NIH can do to help put down this very destructive conspiracy theory, with what seems to be growing momentum,” Collins wrote to Fauci on April 16, 2020. “I hoped the Nature Medicine article on the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 would settle this. But probably didn’t get much visibility. Anything more we can do?”

Fauci responded the next day saying, “I would not do anything about this right now. It is a shiny object that will go away in times [sic].” However, later that same day, April 17, Fauci referenced the Proximal Origin paper from the White House podium in response to a reporter’s question on the origin of the virus.

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Fauci and CDC very very much wanted there to be no speculation that the virus originated in the Wuhan lab, because Fauci and the CDC funded the Wuhan lab, including gain-of-function research there.

How do we know this?

It comes from a PDF document that was used as handouts at the hearing held on the “Proximal Origins” paper that manufactured the “consensus.”

Although the Republicans are holding the hearings, even they didn’t want you to see these particular documents, perhaps because they are too explosive–proving that government officials will routinely lie to you if it suits their purposes, and the people who depend upon their funding will comply with their wishes. The accidental release of the unredacted documents came through a quirk in how Microsoft Word codes redacted documents in the PDFs it creates.

Nobody comes out looking good in this story. Read the ENTIRE thing at The Intercept.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS ON the subcommittee probing the origin of the Covid-19 virus appear to have inadvertently released a trove of new documents related to their investigation that shed light on deliberations among the scientists who drafted a key paper in February and March of 2020. The paper, published in Nature Medicine on March 17, 2020, was titled “The Proximal Origin of Sars-Cov-2” and played a leading role in creating a public impression of a scientific consensus that the virus had emerged naturally in a Chinese “wet market.”

The paper was the subject of a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, which coincided with the release of a report by the subcommittee devoted to the “Proximal Origin” paper. It contains limited screenshots of emails and Slack messages among the authors, laying out its case that the scientists believed one thing in private, that lab escape was likely, while working to produce a paper saying the opposite in public.

The newly exposed documents include full emails and pages of Slack chats that were cropped for the report, exposing the “Proximal Origin” authors’ real-time thinking. According to the metadata in the PDF of the report, it was created using “Acrobat PDFMaker 23 for Word,” indicating that the report was originally drafted as a Word document. Word, however, retains the original image when an image is cropped, as do many other apps. Microsoft’s documentation cautions that “Cropped parts of the picture are not removed from the file, and can potentially be seen by others,” going on to note: “If there is sensitive information in the area you’re cropping out make sure you delete the cropped areas.”

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The “Proximal Origins” paper has been a vital component in the COVID controversies since its first appearance in 2020. Many people suspected that COVID escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and almost as many at least wondered if the virus had been engineered–including the authors of the paper that tried to establish that it didn’t and wasn’t.

Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins, of NIAID and the CDC respectively, drafted the authors to write the paper after they wrote an email to Fauci with the unwelcome news that the virus looked engineered. Fauci insisted on a conference call in which he and others emphasized that the virus most certainly was not the result of Gain of Function research and did not escape from the Wuhan lab, and they best write a paper claiming those facts.

And publish it in Nature. Which they did. After extensive editing from Fauci and the editors of Nature, who apparently were in on the scheme as well.

Much of Tuesday’s hearing focused on a critical few days in early February 2020, beginning with a conference call February 1 that included the eventual authors of the paper and Drs. Anthony Fauci, then head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Francis Collins, then head of its parent agency, the National Institutes of Health. Later minutes showed that the consensus among the experts leaned toward a lab escape. Yet within days, they were circulating a draft — including to Fauci and Collins — that came to the opposite conclusion, the first draft of which had been finished the same day of the conference call. How and why that rapid turnaround occurred has been the subject of much debate and interrogation.

The authors have said, and repeated during Tuesday’s hearing, that new data had changed their minds, but the new Slack messages and emails show that their initial inclination toward a lab escape remained long past that time. 

Among the scientists testifying Tuesday was lead paper author Kristian Andersen of Scripps Research. In a Slack exchange on February 2, 2020, between Andersen and Andrew Rambaut of the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Evolutionary Biology in the School of Biological Sciences, it becomes clear how seriously the authors took the hypothesis that Covid may have leaked from a lab, rather than emerged through natural means, before they ultimately became dedicated to publicly dismissing it.

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The public story behind the paper doesn’t hold up at all. It didn’t even before the documents proving it false leaked, although the scientists involved could at least mumble that they changed their minds, as they did yesterday when they committed perjury before Congress yesterday.

They didn’t change their minds. Their minds were changed for them.

Andersen wrote that “the main issue is that accidental release is in fact highly likely—it’s not some fringe theory. I absolutely agree that we can’t prove one way or the other, but we never will be able to—however, that doesn’t mean that by default the data is currently much more suggestive of a natural origin as opposed to e.g. passage. It is not—the furin cleavage site is very hard to explain”—referring to a feature of the virus that concerned the scientists at the time.

While Anderson and Rambaut were writing a paper asserting that the virus almost certainly didn’t escape from a lab, they privately made clear that they didn’t actually believe that at all.

Andersen wrote, referring to a virus that produced Covid-like symptoms in miners in 2013, a strain that was later stored and researched at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. “What are the chances of finding a viruses that are 96% identical given that distance? Seems strange given how many SARS-like viruses we have in bats.”

Rambaut responded on Slack suggesting they back off such interrogation. “I personally think we should get away from all the strange coincidence stuff. I agree it smells really fishy but without a smoking gun it will not do us any good,” he wrote. “The truth is never going to come out (if [lab] escape is the truth). Would need irrefutable evidence. My position is that the natural evolution is entirely plausible and we will have to leave it at that. Lab passaging might also generate this mutation but we have no evidence that that happened.”

Still, said Rambaut, even though the truth would never emerge if a lab was responsible, the researchers had a responsibility, privately at least, to see what lessons could be learned to prevent a future lab escape. “I think it would be good idea to lay out these arguments for limited dissemination. And quite frankly so we can learn from it even if it wasn’t an escape,” he added.

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Yeah, well, whatever. Maybe they have a “responsibility” to investigate, but Fauci didn’t want that. So it was dropped. Money is at stake here.

That same day, after having put together the first draft of the paper, Andersen responded to two colleagues who wanted to conclusively rule out the lab scenario: “The main issue is that accidental escape is in fact highly likely–it’s not some fringe theory.”

But the paper they were drafting argued the opposite and would be used to label the possibility of a lab leak as a fringe conspiracy, confidently asserting, “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”

Their analysis showed no such thing, and they knew it.

It was the NIH that kept on insisting that changes be made to rule out the lab leak, and Nature–which Fauci was pressuring to publish the paper as soon as possible–reiterated the demand that a lab leak be ruled out.

Nature was quite insistent that there be as little room as possible for anybody to imagine that a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was a possible source for the virus, despite it being gobsmackingly obvious that at the very least it was possible, and actually “highly likely.”

The new documents also include a message from Nature — where the authors pitched the “Proximal Origin” paper before sending to Nature Medicine — explaining its rejection. Despite the paper leaning heavily toward a natural emergence and downplaying the potential of a lab leak, one Nature reviewer found that even leaving open the possibility of a lab escape would fuel conspiracy theorists

It was obvious in February 2020 to anybody who didn’t have a direct interest in denying it, and it is almost a moral certainty now given the evidence that the virus looks exactly like the one that the EcoHealth Alliance sought funding to create in its grant applications, down to manipulating the Furin cleavage site that was so suspicious.

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Nothing in these revelations is surprising in itself–they are just the receipts for the BS we know we were sold. While it is satisfying in a rather sterile way to be proven that these guys are a bunch of liars who belong in jail, it will undoubtedly result in no prosecutions, no changes at all to how things are done, and it will all be swept under the rug.

That sucks.

What is striking to me about all this, and I will write a piece later today with my thoughts, is this: why didn’t the committee Republicans drop these like an atomic bomb on the scientists as they lied to the committee and to the American public? They had the goods. The scientists attacked the committee viciously in order to rebut doubts about their integrity. Why not crush them in public?

In his written testimony, Andersen, who has also been subpoenaed by the subcommittee, categorically denied the “absurd and false” allegation that the Proximal Origin paper “was initiated and orchestrated by Dr. Anthony Fauci to disprove, dismiss, and cover-up a lab origin” of SARS-CoV-2. He also denounced “attacks directed against science and scientists.” Some of Andersen’s coauthors who didn’t attend the hearing had even harsher words for the subcommittee. Edward Holmes, a virologist from Australia who was not at the hearing, called the oversight inquiry a “pathetic sham” in an interview with The Washington Post.

The Republicans had the goods. They could smack them in the face after every lie. They could have humiliated them, and by extension Fauci and company, and yet they didn’t. Instead, the documents accidentally leak due to a technical flaw in a Word document. They have enough to prosecute them for perjury. Why not?

Why didn’t they go in for the kill when they could? More thoughts on that later today.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024
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