A leading scientist whose organization funded coronavirus research in China and sought to dismiss the COVID-19 lab leak theory refused to answer questions about his efforts on Tuesday.
Peter Daszak, a British-American-Ukrainian zoologist who heads the EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization that sent U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for coronavirus research prior to 2020, was a prominent health expert who repeatedly claimed that COVID-19 did not emerge from the institute and insisted that it was natural in origin. Even as several United States government agencies have assessed that the virus likely leaked from a lab, Daszak refused to take any questions from the Daily Caller News Foundation on Tuesday about his record of denying that claim, or his affiliations with the Institute.
“Do you agree with U.S. government assessments that COVID-19 leaked from a laboratory? Do you regret sending money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology?” the DCNF asked Daszak as he stepped out of a closed-door meeting with members of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Origins of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Daszak exited briefly before being ushered back into the committee room by his attorneys to avoid the DCNF’s questions.
The DCNF was later told by the subcommittee’s staff to “move away” from the room, ostensibly for Daszak to avoid questions.
“Has your research prevented any pandemics since or before COVID-19?” the DCNF asked Daszak before the door was closed.
In February of 2020, Daszak was a co-signatory of a letter with other health experts published in The Lancet, a prominent medical journal, that dismissed the notion that COVID-19 emerged from a lab. “We sign this statement in solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China who continue to save lives and protect global health during the challenge of the COVID-19 outbreak,” the letter read, also stating “[w]e stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin. Scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of the causative agent…and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.”
Daszak later joined a team of scientists, under the World Health Organization (WHO), that traveled to Wuhan in China to investigate the virus. Daszak’s team “discounted claims that the virus originated in a lab, saying that possibility was so unlikely that it was not worth further investigation,” according to an interview of Daszak by The New York Times after his trip, a finding that was supplemented by his team’s report.
However, many observers raised concerns over Daszak’s possible conflict of interest due to Daszak’s organization, EcoHealth Alliance, previously working with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
EcoHealth Alliance had previously collaborated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, including funding its research with U.S. taxpayer dollars received via grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Daszak, in media appearances following his study, claimed that there was “zero evidence that this virus came out of a lab,” according to an interview with CBS 60 Minutes in May of 2020.
Later investigations from U.S. government agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Energy, concluded that the virus likely emerged from a laboratory in China, according to multiple reports. Some U.S. intelligence agencies, however, claimed that the virus did not emerge from a laboratory.
EcoHealth Alliance and the committee’s Democratic staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation