In an interview with investigative journalist Paul D. Thacker, biodefense official Dr. Robert Kadlec alleged that key officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci and virologists who wrote the “Proximal Origin” paper knew COVID-19 likely originated in a lab but used classic “information operations” tactics to protect their careers and funding.
A leading biodefense official who played a key role in medical and public health preparedness under the Trump administration during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic alleged that current and former government officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have been “misdirecting” the public over the origins of COVID-19.
In an interview with investigative journalist Paul D. Thacker, Dr. Robert Kadlec suggested that Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other government officials and key virologists have been engaged in “denial and deception” about the virus’ origins.
Kadlec was assistant secretary for preparedness and response when the COVID-19 pandemic began, directing the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR). He later directed a Senate committee that, in October 2022, released an interim report on the pandemic’s origin that strongly favored the “lab-leak theory.”
According to USRTK, these documents indicate that “American researchers concealed their intention to conduct high-risk coronavirus research in Wuhan under lax safety standards from the Pentagon the year before the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In an interview with The Defender, Thacker said that these documents aren’t, in and of themselves, evidence that COVID-19 emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, but are evidence that those involved with controversial gain-of-function research at that laboratory have been dishonest.
“It’s another example showing that these people are lying,” Thacker said. “And the strongest evidence of a lab accident in Wuhan are all the examples of the researchers lying about what they were doing in Wuhan. That’s the evidence.”
“It’s become a pandemic truism that researchers and their pet science writers eventually get caught dissembling when documents take the air out of authoritative statements and convictions underlined with purported scientific and journalistic authority,” he wrote.
Fauci, others involved in ‘information operation’
According to Thacker, “Kadlec has worked to counter biological weapons for an alphabet soup of various agencies” for 30-plus years.
The interim U.S. Senate report that was released under his watch in October 2022 “became a controversial exclusive by ProPublica/Vanity Fair, with a 2700 word editor’s note later added,” Thacker wrote.
According to the report, published Oct. 28, 2022, in ProPublica, “The Wuhan lab at the center of suspicions about the pandemic’s onset was far more troubled than known.”
Criticism then followed from parts of the scientific community, resulting in ProPublica publishing its editor’s note on Nov. 30, 2022, stating that “Scientists, China observers and others questioned the Senate team’s findings and our reporting about them.”
ProPublica’s editors “added additional context” to the story and “also identified two factual errors inconsequential to the premise of the story” which were corrected. Yet, ProPublica maintained, “Our examination affirms that the story, and the totality of reporting it marshals, is sound,” adding:
“It remains clear that in 2019, the WIV [Wuhan Institute of Virology] was addressing serious safety issues while scientists there faced pressure to perform. Risky coronavirus research took place in laboratories that lacked the maximum biocontainment safeguards, according to the interim report. …
“… The possibility that a biosecurity breach at the WIV occurred, and sparked the pandemic, remains plausible.”
According to Thacker, Kadlec — previously “operating mostly in the background” — has now emerged from the bureaucracy to assert that “federal scientists and the virologists they funded have misdirected the public and helped to cover up evidence that the pandemic began in a Wuhan lab — a lab funded with American money.”
Kadlec told Thacker that figures Fauci and Collins wanted to protect their reputations and federal funding for the research, even in the face of mounting evidence that such research could have led to the development and release of COVID-19.
“These researchers’ motives seem clear: protect reputations, protect federal grants,” according to Thacker.
To accomplish this objective, Kadlec said that “misdirection” was employed which attempted to downplay and shift public attention away from the lab-leak theory.
“It looks like an information operation to me,” Kadlec said. “It’s directing people away. And these guys did it by a variety of means. … Cover-up is one way to look at it; it seems to be a colossal misdirection.”
Kadlec noted that as early as February 2020, Fauci and key virologists were privately acknowledging, in emails between them, “that this could have been a laboratory incident.”
He also referred to one of the authors of the now-infamous “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2” (“Proximal Origin”) paper in Nature Medicine in March 2020, Kristian Andersen, Ph.D., professor of immunology and microbiology at the California-based Scripps Research Institute.
According to a July 2023 U.S. House report, the “Proximal Origin” paper was used to “downplay the lab-leak hypothesis” and label as “conspiracy theorists” anyone who suggested the virus may have leaked from a lab. The report indicated Fauci and Collins were personally involved in the conceptualization, drafting and publication of the paper.
Kadlec told Thacker that Fauci and some scientists who co-authored that paper, including Andersen, appeared to privately acknowledge that COVID-19 could have been engineered, in a set of emails and calls they exchanged on Feb. 1, 2020, which Kadlec also received.
Noting that Fauci’s public statements denied a connection between COVID-19 and a lab leak, Kadlec said, “If anything, Fauci had information that probably said the other way.”
“Fauci got this other group, with Jeremy Farrar [then-head of the Wellcome Trust] and his buddies. And this group privately says they have concerns, and then publicly say there’s no way a lab accident could happen,” he said.
Kadlec called Fauci “a real operator” who “has a vested interest in his reputation and that of his institute. And they’re inseparable.”
“I think what was driven here was reputational risk to NIH and to the two people that both advocated — Fauci and Collins — for unfettered, scientific research, meaning gain-of-function research,” he said.
“NIH-funded gain-of-function research may have resulted in this accident,” Kadlec said.
The cabal of Farrar, Collins and Fauci “seem to be the center of what was going on,” he added.
Fauci is scheduled to appear before the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic on Jan. 8 and Jan. 9 for a two-day transcribed interview regarding “the numerous controversies that have arisen during and after the pandemic.”
He will testify publicly before the subcommittee later this year.
Collins played ‘even more prominent role’
According to Kadlec, though, Collins played an even more prominent role than Fauci.
“As much as you would like to think Fauci is behind this, I think Collins may be the guy,” Kadlec said. “Collins is still working in the White House. Still an advisor to the President.”
Kadlec said that Collins had even tried to stop him and ASPR from working with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine “to look at what the genetic sequence [of SARS-Cov-2] showed in January 2020.”
“He just called me, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’” Kadlec said, adding, “Collins, you know, has a fairly large ego. But also, he felt like the National Academies was the sole domain of the NIH. I had to remind him that I was paying the Academies to do work for me under pandemic preparedness.”
Kadlec said that scientists like Andersen “got funding from NIH to do gain-of-function research, some of it with the Chinese,” and that evidence indicating a potential lab leak had begun emerging early during the pandemic.
Kadlec said one of the first people to issue a patent for a vaccine against COVID-19 was Chinese People’s Liberation Army scientist Zhou Yusen, who was also a vaccinologist.
“When you look at the patent and what he published on that COVID vaccine, you quickly realized that he had to start very early … he had to start working with the COVID virus around November, or as early as October,” he said.
“We think the outbreak occurred … [in] late October, November — and he’s doing animal studies with mice, likely at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Kadlec said. “He published a paper in collaboration with the WIV in November of 2019. Lo and behold, this outbreak happens in Wuhan.”
“You can’t make a cogent, convincing argument that it came naturally from an animal. What they were trying to do is make the argument that it’s zoonotic, and there’s no evidence to support that.
“The evidence I have is from George Gao, the guy who was the director of the Chinese CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], who published serially that this virus was not from the market.”
When asked why some scientists continue to promote the zoonotic or “wet market” theory, Kadlec called it “a red herring” that “even the Chinese relented from,” and said such messaging “looks like an information operation.”
“Misdirection. It’s like denial and deception,” Kadlec said. “How do we go from a phone call with ‘Well, this just doesn’t look right’ to the opposite, “There’s no possible way it could be a lab’? And I wish I could explain that.”
Getting answers from government, agencies like ‘pulling teeth’
Kadlec said that he was a recipient of the Feb. 1, 2020, email which included Fauci, Collins, Andersen, Farrar and others but did not recall reading it.
“At the time … figuring out how the pandemic started wasn’t in my wheelhouse,” he said. “I was focused on countermeasures, preserving hospital systems, and distributing PPE — what little we had.”
His agency at the time, ASPR, did ask the National Academies “to look at the genetic sequence [of SARS-CoV-2] to truncate some of the more wild speculation out there,” but their response was that they “needed more information.”
Kadlec said that later, when he was leading the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) committee investigating COVID-19’s origins, “We could not link what we believe happened in Wuhan directly to NIH funding.”
Thacker told The Defender the HELP report made little mention of the NIH and no mention of Fauci or gain-of-function research but laid a lot of blame on China.
“That report was one big misdirection to point the finger at China, that the only way we can figure out what’s going on is if China has become more transparent. That’s a fool’s game because we know China’s not going to become more transparent,” he said.
Noting that public health agencies such as the NIH and the CDC were not involved in trying to figure out the origins of COVID-19, Kadlec said, “It really has little to do with NIH and CDC. … There was this idea that, between the intelligence community and the scientific community, there had to be someone who would take the responsibility for leading efforts to conduct attribution.”
“If I remember correctly, it ultimately fell to the Department of State. But what science do they know, or the intelligence community?” he said.
He added his view that getting answers from entities like the NIH, Democratic Party politicians, the House or the Senate Intelligence Committee was like “pulling teeth.”
New evidence of government-funded gain-of-function research
According to Kadlec, such coronavirus research was in progress long before the emergence of COVID-19.
“A paper [letter] came out in 2015 in Nature, and they put out two corrections on it. It’s a Ralph Baric and Shi Zhengli paper … funded by Fauci’s institute at the NIH, and the corrigendum adds that there was also funding from USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development], the PREDICT program.”
The letter, titled “A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence” had an editor’s note added to it in March 2020, stating: “We are aware that this article is being used as the basis for unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered. There is no evidence that this is true; scientists believe that an animal is the most likely source of the coronavirus.”
Thacker wrote that a similar example emerged last month as part of the release of the USRTK documents, which he said show U.S. “virologists and Wuhan researchers attempted to mislead the Defense Department’s DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] program about dangerous virus research in a 2018 grant called DEFUSE.”
“DARPA rejected the proposal as some of the studies involved dangerous gain-of-function studies. We now know, from drafts of the DEFUSE proposal, that virologists planned to conduct those studies at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, although they have denied this several times after the DEFUSE proposal became public.
“In previous statements, virologists and science writers assured the public that the proposed gain-of-function studies discussed in DEFUSE were to have taken place in the lab of Ralph Baric at the University of North Carolina [UNC], and not in the lab of Shi Zhengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“As we all know, the pandemic began in Wuhan and increasing amounts of evidence points to something going awry in Shi Zhengli’s lab.”
Thacker also noted that “In early drafts of the DEFUSE proposal, Peter Daszak commented to UNC’s Ralph Baric and Wuhan’s Shi Zhengli that some of the work to engineer chimeric SARS viruses would be done in Wuhan,” but later tried to “downplay” the link to Wuhan and Zhengli.
Subsequently, journalists such as Science Magazine’s Jon Cohen publicly attempted to refute any connection between the DEFUSE research and the COVID-19 lab-leak theory. According to Thacker, Cohen once publicly accused him on Twitter of promoting “disinformation” about his questions about the DEFUSE study and its funders.
In another instance, Thacker said Science Magazine’s ditor-in-chief H. Holden Thorpe “misled the entire scientific community” by claiming in an editorial that the DEFUSE experiments “hardly posed a threat” and could not have occurred at Wuhan because it was UNC scientists involved with that work.
“Thorpe came from UNC where he was once chancellor, overseeing the university’s research, including Ralph Baric’s. Thorpe resigned from the chancellorship after the UNC was caught in widespread academic fraud,” Thacker wrote.
“It’s a revelation of another lie, but it’s not a revelation of the fact that they were going to be doing this research in Wuhan because they were already doing chimeric research in Wuhan,” Thacker told The Defender.
Thacker wrote that such examples are “typical of the science writer genre: whenever messaging threatens science, run to those very same scientists to get a canned quote and knock it down.”
“We now know that little of what scientists told us about the DEFUSE grant was true,” he wrote. “Virologists planned to do these dangerous virus studies in Wuhan, and they lied about it to the federal government to get funding. And then they lied to us about their intentions, after the pandemic started in Wuhan.”
“Science writers amplified these lies to you and the rest of the American public,” he added, noting that this helped contribute to censorship of public postings suggesting COVID-19 emerged from a lab leak.
“Facebook limited your ability to talk about a lab accident,” Thacker said. “There were multiple ‘fact-checks’ that said it couldn’t have possibly come from a lab in Wuhan … This has been years and years of deception.”
However, with more information emerging pointing towards a lab leak, writers such as Cohen who previously doubled down against the lab-leak theory are now retreating, according to Thacker.
“Many of them who were involved in the coverup are fleeing Twitter now because they’re being humiliated,” Thacker said, noting that Cohen from Science Magazine had already left Twitter.
“They got it wrong, and they don’t want to admit this because this isn’t the only thing they got wrong. A lot of the things they wrote about — masks, vaccines, lockdowns — were wrong,” he said.
“They can’t stand the fact that they’re no longer in control of the narrative. And they’re seeing the fact that their narratives are blowing up.”
This has key implications in terms of preparations for a future pandemic, Thacker said, adding:
“The best way to figure out how to stop a future fire is to understand how the fire that we’re dealing with started. That’s why you have fire inspectors to go through and inspect and see what started the fire. …
“Same thing with pandemic research. From the beginning, there have been constant attempts to denigrate and downplay the possibility of a lab accident.”