Biden admin now investigating COVID origin 'because of the public outcry’: Rep. Mike Turner
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, argues during an exclusive interview with 'Sunday Morning Futures' that COVID-19 'certainly could have been' a bioweapon.
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, argued during an exclusive interview with "Sunday Morning Futures" that "everything points to the Wuhan lab" as it pertains to the origin of COVID-19, and added that "we need to get to the bottom of it."
Turner, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, stressed that "the Chinese government needs to be held accountable" for COVID-19.
The Ohio congressman also told host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday that he believes that the Biden administration is now investigating the origin of the novel coronavirus "because of the public outcry" and because of a report released this month by Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee.
The Biden administration is calling for a transparent international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, with the White House calling for China and the World Health Organization to provide data and information necessary for U.S. officials to draw conclusions.
The White House has criticized the WHO and China for its "phase one" report for its lack of transparency. That report dismissed claims that COVID-19 had escaped from the lab in Wuhan, and called the theory of zoonotic transmission, or transfer of infection from animals to humans, "likely to very likely." It also said the idea that the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology "extremely unlikely."
A State Department official told Fox News that Secretary of State Antony Blinken is committed to getting more details on the origins of COVID-19, as both a function of accountability and to ensure the U.S. and the American people are protected from public health threats in the future.
The official added that the U.S. and the world need transparency from China, which Beijing has not yet allowed, and said the State Department is working closely with their administration partners and international partners to get the answers needed.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is one of China's top virus research labs, built an archive of genetic information about bat coronaviruses after the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and has faced criticism over its transparency throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
China has promoted unproven theories that the virus may have originated elsewhere, or was even been brought into the country from overseas with imports of frozen seafood tainted with the virus, a notion rejected by international scientists and agencies.
When Bartiromo asked Turner if he believes COVID-19 is a bioweapon he said, "It certainly could have been."
"Even if you just look at this intuitively, where the Wuhan lab is undertaking this type of research, it’s in Wuhan, the virus comes from Wuhan, it's not like the lab is in Wuhan, the virus comes from Shanghai or even Paris," Turner explained.
"And then you overlay the reports … that even include perhaps collaboration between the Wuhan lab and the Chinese military, which are referenced in the House Intelligence report, which you can see online, dating back to 2012 where there are concerns about the lab's operations and its coordination with the Chinese military."
Earlier this month, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, including Turner, said there is "significant circumstantial evidence" that the COVID-19 outbreak stemmed from a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and urged the federal government to put "more pressure on China" to allow for a "full, credible investigation" into the source of the global pandemic.
Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Republicans on the panel released the report on May 19, first obtained by Fox News, saying it is "crucial for health experts and the U.S. government to understand how the COVID-19 virus originated" to prevent "or quickly mitigate future pandemics."
"International efforts to discover the true source of the virus, however, have been stymied by a lack of cooperation from the People’s Republic of China," Republicans wrote. "Nevertheless, significant circumstantial evidence raises serious concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak may have been a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology."
Republicans pointed to public reports that "several researchers in the Wuhan lab were sickened with COVID-19-like symptoms" in fall 2019, and the Chinese military’s "involvement in the Wuhan Lab."
Turner told Bartiromo on Sunday that the report lays out "concerns" related to "occurrences at the lab right before the virus breaks out and goes worldwide," including the "reports of individuals becoming sick," which he argued "raises the concern" about potential U.S. involvement.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci last week defended "modest" collaboration with scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology on studying bat coronaviruses while asserting that the agency did not allocate the money to do "gain of function" research, which is research that involves modifying a virus to make it more infectious among humans.
During a House Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday, Fauci was asked about a $600,000 grant from The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that went to a group called EcoHealth Alliance, which then paid the Wuhan Institute of Virology to study the risk that bat coronaviruses could infect humans.
"It would have been almost a dereliction of our duty if we didn't study this, and the only way you can study these things is you've got to go where the action is," Fauci said, referencing the early-2000s SARS outbreak, which is presumed to have come from bats.
"You don't want to study bats in Fairfax County, Virginia, to find out what the animal-human interface is that might lead to a jumping of species," Fauci continued "So we had a modest collaboration with very respectable Chinese scientists who were world experts on coronavirus, and we did that through a sub-grant from a larger grant to EcoHealth."
Fauci added: "The larger grant was about $600,000 over a period of five years. So it was a modest amount. The purpose of it was to study the animal-human interface, to do surveillance and to determine if these bat viruses were even capable of" infecting humans.
A spokesperson for EcoHealth told FOX Business on Tuesday that its funding from the NIH is frozen with no guidance on when it will be unfrozen. The Wall Street Journal reported in August that in July 2020 the NIH told EcoHealth its funding would be frozen amid concerns that the Wuhan Institute of Virology may not have been following safety standards and that EcoHealth was not properly monitoring the Wuhan lab's activities.
The letter notably said NIH "received reports that the Wuhan Institute of Virology … has been conducting research at its facilities in China that pose serious bio-safety concerns," according to The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, Fauci himself has said he is "not convinced" COVID-19 developed naturally outside the Wuhan lab, and said the U.S. "should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened."
"The Chinese government needs to be held accountable," Turner stressed on Sunday.
"Certainly, everything points to the Wuhan lab. We need to get to the bottom of it and, certainly, the intelligence community needs to be held accountable for bringing forth the information so that we can have a very public debate on holding China accountable."
A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Rich Edson, Tyler Olson and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.