Fauci Says He Never Changed Mind About Lab Leak Theory, Equates Criticism With 'Attacks on Science'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top adviser to President Joe Biden on the COVID-19 pandemic, says he hasn't changed his mind about the origins of the novel coronavirus outbreak—as more experts lean into a theory that it originated in an experimental lab in Wuhan, China, that has received funding from the United States government.

"Most of the scientists that I know feel that the most likely origin is a natural origin from an animal reservoir to human," Fauci said on MSNBC's MTP Daily in an interview with host Chuck Todd on Wednesday. "However, we have not ruled out the possibility that there could have been a leak from the lab of them working on the virus. It could have been that someone was infected early on, they brought him into the lab, and it came out of the lab, but it was already out in the community."

Fauci has faced criticism from Republicans over the United States' handling of the novel coronavirus, though he's largely stayed consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidance on masks and other safety measures through the pandemic.

Some Republicans have called for his firing in recent weeks, which Fauci pushed back on during his MSNBC interview.

"A lot of what you're seeing as attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science, because all of the things that I have spoken about consistently from the very beginning have been fundamentally based on science," he said.

Leaders have been trying to trace the origins of COVID-19 to prevent future pandemics like the one that has killed nearly 600,000 people in the United States over the past year.

Amid such speculation, Fauci said he thinks it's important to differentiate between whether the virus was an intentional biological weapon or accident, if it was created in a lab.

He described the so-called "lab leak" theory as "not anything new or anything that anyone hasn't been articulating all along."

"When a scientist says they feel that the most likely etiology, the most likely origin is in this case natural, that doesn't mean there's a closed mind to it being a leak, even though many people feel, myself included, that, still, the most likely origin is a natural one," he said.

Former President Donald Trump—who has faced criticism for his early downplaying the virus that he contracted at the height of the presidential election and had to be hospitalized for—has repeatedly said he thinks that the Chinese government should pay worldwide reparations for the outbreak.

Fauci became a household name as one of the major faces of the pandemic response, first during Trump's term and now the Biden administration.

Biden has stood by Fauci in the post despite the backlash, according to top aides. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week that there's no circumstance in which she could see Fauci's forced ouster.

Anthony Fauci speaks on Wuhan leak theory
Anthony Fauci(R), director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks following a hearing looking into the budget estimates for National Institute of Health (NIH) and the state of medical research on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 26, 2021. Stefani Reynolds / POOL / AFP/Getty Images