Parsing Francis Collins’s comments on what happened in Wuhan, part one

posted: January 15, 2022

tl;dr: Collins’s truths, deceptions, and omissions about what happened in Wuhan lend credence to the lab leak theory...

We’re more than two years into the COVID-19 endemic, and the sequence of events that led to the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China is still not known with any degree of scientific certainty. The fact that this much time has elapsed, and that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is pointing to sources beyond its borders (including imported frozen food or a lab leak from the U.S. military’s bioscience lab in Fort Detrick that somehow got to Wuhan), indicates that the CCP and others have no interest in the actual source becoming known, and are doing what they can to cover up the truth. I believe, however, that the preponderance of evidence about what is known, as described in the book Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19, points to some sort of lab leak, either with or without gain-of-function experimentation being a factor.

If it was a lab leak, that would make two Americans partially responsible for what happened in Wuhan: Francis Collins, the former Director of the National Institutes of Health, and his direct report and longtime friend Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There’s no doubt that Collins and Fauci signed off on grants that ended up funding, through an intermediary named EcoHealth Alliance, research on novel coronaviruses in the Wuhan Institute of Virology that involved collecting thousands of samples from the field and bringing them to Wuhan for experimentation. There’s also no doubt that Collins and Fauci advocated for gain-of-function research on dangerous viruses: they are two of the three signatories on this editorial published in 2011 in the Washington Post, A flu virus risk worth taking, shortly after scientists discovered how to give viruses more capabilities to infect humans.

While we’re in this intermediate state of the origin of COVID-19 not being scientifically proven, how do Collins and Fauci explain and justify what happened and may have happened in Wuhan, and their roles in those events? Collins recently gave a long-form interview to podcaster Lex Fridman posted on YouTube on November 5, 2021, in which Fridman asks Collins some tough questions. I found Collins’s responses, both what he said and what he did not say, to be fascinating for someone who, like myself, thinks it is very important to determine the origin of COVID-19.

Francis Collins in a suit and tie, seated in front of a microphone, with an expression on his face which indicates he'd prefer to be discussing something else

Former Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins being interviewed by Lex Fridman

It should be mentioned that Collins has successfully built a public image for himself as a God-fearing, guitar-playing, grandpa scientist. Beneath this facade, there are now several documented instances of Collins and Fauci being ruthless about controlling the media coverage of the COVID-19 endemic. The most recent controversy arose in December 2021, when more emails featuring Collins and Fauci became public via a Freedom of Information Act request. In one Collins asks Fauci for a “quick and devastating published take down[sic]” of the premises of something that I’ve written positively about, the Great Barrington Declaration.

Screenshot of an email sent by Francis Collins to Anthony Fauci and two other people

Email in which Francis Collins tells Anthony Fauci he wants a 'devastating published take down[sic]' of the Great Barrington Declaration

In my mind I throw away the image Collins wants us to believe about himself. I’m much more interested in what he says, what he does not say, and how he spins the facts about the origin of COVID-19. Here’s how I’ve parsed his statements, and what I believe they tell us about Collins’s actions.

Collins says a lab leak is possible, and should be investigated

Lex Fridman also considers the #OriginOfCovid to be an important topic, as it is the first topic of the entire interview. In response to Fridman’s questioning, and at several other points in the interview, Collins does state that a lab leak is possible, and even brings up prior lab leaks of the original SARS-CoV virus.

In response to Fridman’s first question, at the 1:54 mark “Is there a reasonable chance that COVID-19 leaked from a lab?” Collins answers “I can’t exclude that. I think it’s fairly unlikely.” Later, at the 7:55 mark, Collins states “Because we all know, lab accidents can happen. Look at SARS, where there have been lab accidents.” At the 19:42 mark Fridman brings up his own family history in which his father was a physicist at Chernobyl and says “there was an accident [at Chernobyl]. Does that [an accident] worry you?” Collins answers “Of course it does. We know that SARS did manage to leak out of a lab in China two or three times, and at least in some instances, people died.”

Collins is clearly aware that a lab leak is possible, although he would prefer that SARS-CoV-2 be proven to have arisen from entirely natural sources.

Collins deceives Fridman about the discovery of the origin of the first SARS virus

The origin of the first SARS virus is covered at length in chapter 4 of Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19. To briefly summarize: when SARS arose in southern China in 2002 and 2003, far from Wuhan, analysis of the personal histories of the early victims revealed that many of them were involved in food handling and preparation. This led to animal testing, and it was discovered that civets, an exotic animal used in some esoteric dishes, carried the virus. As described in this Washington Post article from January 7, 2004, Chinese officials began eradicating (killing) around ten thousand civets, to eliminate the host for the virus. Further clues led to the suspicion that bats were infecting the civets. What took years longer to find was the bat virus that infected the civets.

Here’s how Collins misrepresents these events, in an attempt to sell Fridman on the idea that it may take many years to determine how SARS-CoV-2 originated, at the 2:31 mark: “I think we might know if we find that intermediate host…Remember, it takes a while to do this. With SARS, it was 14 years before we figured out it was the civet cat that was the intermediate host.”

Collins almost certainly knows the SARS origin story, which makes his statement to Fridman a blatant lie. Collins is attempting to portray the hunt for the origin of SARS-CoV-2 as a long, drawn out process. Yet the CCP has already undertaken the same steps of tracing the early COVID-19 victims and performing testing of the animals sold in the Wuhan seafood market. The CCP is withholding information about the early victims, and has stated that they could not find the SARS-CoV-2 virus in any animals sold in the seafood market. There are no signs that the CCP has eradicated any populations of animals, which they would certainly do to prevent further spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, if they determined that it did come from an animal intermediate host. The COVID-19 endemic has been underway for more than two years, and the virus hunting technology is better today than it was in 2003, yet the intermediate animal for SARS-CoV-2 has not been identified.

Collins is currently 71, and Anthony Fauci is 81 years old. Both, I’m sure, would be very happy if the origin of COVID-19 took 14 years or more to determine, which is why Collins tempers Fridman’s enthusiasm for finding the origin, and why Collins deceives Fridman.


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