December 20, 2022 from The DisInformation Chronicle
6 minute read

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent began scratching about like a cornered badger a week back when Elon Musk tweeted that the NIH’s Anthony Fauci should be prosecuted.

“In his attack, Musk flatly validated a big right-wing obsession,” Greg huffed, devoting an entire column to defend Fauci from a tweet. “The idea that Fauci was involved in U.S. government funding of controversial early research into covid, and lied to Congress about it.”

I really have no clue why this guy waded into a matter he knows nothing about, and I can’t remember the last time I clicked on something he wrote. Greg is one of the many, many opinion writers floating around DC, trying to drum up clicks and retweets, and who makes his living as a mouthpiece for a political party, ginning up partisan hate before tossing political grenades across the internet.

It’s a kind of journalism, I guess.

Not very important actually, but way, way too common. And while Greg is not that important, understanding what he does can help readers better navigate the media ecosystem. The man doesn’t matter, but knowing his role is critical if you want to stay informed.

In Greg’s case, he operates under the umbrella of the Democratic Party, and since Fauci is an advisor to President Biden … well, that likely explains it.

More on Greg’s media politics later. First, let’s address the crux of the rant:

1)    Was Fauci involved in U.S. government funding of controversial early research into covid?

2)    Did Fauci lie about this to Congress?

The answer to both questions is “yes.”

How do we know this? Because it was already reported in public documents, a British investigative documentary, and in articles here at The DisInformation Chronicle, The Intercept and Vanity Fair. Before addressing Greg’s obsession with compressing everything into a “big right-wing obsession” let’s review that evidence.

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That evidence thing

Shortly after the pandemic began, an NIH official emailed Fauci on Jan. 27, 2020 to notify him that he had been funding coronavirus research in China for the last five years. This money was routed through the EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit run by Peter Daszak.

A few days later, NIH officials began discussing whether they might have funded a specific coronavirus paper by Shi Zhengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. “No evidence this was supported by NIH,” NIH Director Francis Collins wrote

Note that Collins wrote that there’s “no evidence” that they supported specific coronavirus studies by Wuhan researcher Shi Zhengli. Whether there is evidence is a different question from whether they actually funded it. Just as “Did OJ Simpson kill his ex-wife?” is a different question from “Did the prosecution present evidence to prove OJ Simpson killed his ex-wife?”

In this case, NIH officials emailed that they were funding research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They then discuss if there’s a paper trail of evidence that ties them to specific papers.

In April of 2020, Politico reported that former Acting Director of the CIA Michael Morell said that  if the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab, the U.S. would shoulder some of the blame, since it funded research at that lab through government grants from 2014-2019.

This helps explain why Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci were so concerned early in the pandemic about anyone looking into a possible lab leak in Wuhan. People inside the government knew that NIH was funding research at the Wuhan lab. So if a leak occurred, that might tie the NIH and Anthony Fauci to the pandemic that started killing people.

A year after Politico’s report, the editorial board of the Washington Post—Greg Sargent’s own employer!!!—wrote that we needed to investigate what happened in China, because “a senior researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Shi Zhengli, was working on ‘gain of function’ experiments, which involve modifying viral genomes to give them new properties, including the ability to infect lung cells of laboratory mice that had been genetically modified to respond as human respiratory cells would.”

This is the same Wuhan lab that NIH officials notified Fauci that he was funding through a grant to EcoHealth Alliance. But Greg doesn’t bother to read the paper he works for and that puts coin in his pocket.

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Game’s up: drop your politics

By the summer of 2021, the game was up. Senator Rand Paul sent a referral to the Department of Justice to have them investigate Fauci—and possibly prosecute him—for lying to Congress about his funding for virus research at the Wuhan lab in China. Then the U.K.'s Channel 4 released the documentary “Did Covid leak from a lab in China.”

During one segment of the documentary, the director asked Stanford’s David Relman to address whether Fauci’s NIAID institute at the NIH had funded dangerous virology research called “gain of function” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

As Relman explained, the answer is yes.

How do we know? They published it. And to answer the question, “Was it supported by the NIH?” The answer is, “Yes. Indirectly, but yes.” 

How do we know? The paper says right on the front page “supported by NIAID, NIH.” It says it right there.

Watch the exchange.

Here’s a link to that gain-of-function paper Relman discussed in the documentary showing that Fauci’s institute funded research by Shi Zhengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Months later, The Intercept released documents proving Fauci’s institute had funded dangerous virus research at the lab in Wuhan (NIH Documents Provide New Evidence U.S. Funded Gain-of-Function Research in Wuhan). Vanity Fair later reported, “In Major Shift, NIH Admits Funding Risky Virus Research in Wuhan.”

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What’s the matter with Greg?

First off, understand one thing: The Washington Post will not run a correction to Greg’s piece where he denied Fauci’s funding of research at Wuhan and that Fauci lied about this. The editors at the Post want Greg for the clicks and traffic, what he writes is incidental to that goal.

Greg is a political writer tied to the Democratic Party. As happens to any writer glued to political forces, these ties muddle Greg’s thinking as he views all matters through an ideological lens that shades events and topics with politics. While this helps identify targets in ongoing ideological struggle against perceived right-wing trolls, it also harms his ability to see that not everything occupies this field of war.

He tips off readers to his battle-hardened sensibility in the opening sentence, “By now it should be obvious that for large swaths of the right-wing media ecosystem, the Triggering of the Libs has become an end in itself.”

All thinking flows from his beliefs, how he reacts to Twitter, and any critique of what he writes, including this very response. If you live outside Washington, this approach to the world can come off as bizarre, but he’s not alone. Most political writers in DC act the same way. In Greg’s particular case, any facts he sees running contrary to his perspective just confirm right-wing media are triggering him, thus … dive into a bunker and start shooting back.

Lots of people hop on the internet and do similar shit during college years instead of studying for some boring test. It can be fun in moderation. But there’s a strong taste for partisan paintball on social media, and a few of the unlucky ones get sucked into the game, wake up one day needing a job, and end up stuck at the Washington Post—an ideological warrior paid to throw attention-grabbing political shit bombs that drive traffic to a news site.

Greg doesn’t know that Fauci has funded dangerous virus research in China, nor that NIH knew this in early 2020. And Greg doesn’t care.

Greg doesn’t know that Fauci lied about this to Congress, nor that this lie has already been reported. And Greg doesn’t care.

Lost in the fog of war, he can’t grasp that not every event—like a tweet by Elon Musk—is tied to his crusade. But ideological warfare and clawing at the enemy—first Trump, now Elon Musk—is really all he really knows.

For most of us, politics doesn’t occupy every circuit in our brain—doesn’t push us out of bed in the morning. With so many deaths from the COVID virus—which may have leaked from a Wuhan lab—we need to understand all the evidence that explains how this pandemic happened. Only then can we hope to stop the next one.

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