June 3, 2021

The release of thousands of emails to and from U.S. infectious disease chief Dr. Anthony Fauci has fueled claims that the virus behind COVID-19 was man-made. BuzzFeed and The Washington Post received the emails in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, and both published articles on June 1.

Fauci’s critics quickly responded.

“Dr Fauci exposed for the fraud he is,” said a June 2 Facebook post from the WTF Files. “Fauci’s fellow scientist could tell early on that the (coronavirus) looked manufactured.”

The post included an email from Kristian Andersen, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. It underlines the last few words of this quote from his Jan. 31, 2020, message to Fauci: “The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all of the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered.”

A smoking gun?

No.

In that same email, Andersen said, “There are still further analyses to be done, so those opinions could still change.”

And a little over a month later, they did.

In a March 17, 2020, article in Nature Medicine, Andersen and his colleagues wrote, “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”

After the email release, Andersen tweeted June 1 that “we seriously considered a lab leak a possibility,” and “what the email shows, is a clear example of the scientific process.”

The WTF Facebook post includes another email to Fauci from a professor of dermatology who voiced his suspicion that the virus could have been released from a lab in Wuhan. The email gives no data to support that suspicion.

Plucking emails from the BuzzFeed and Washington Post trove inspired other social media posts suspicious of Fauci.

Instagram posts drew attention to an email to Fauci from independent researcher Adam Gaertner. In one June 2 post, the email’s subject line, “Coronavirus bioweapon production method,” and the phrase “This is how the virus was created” are underlined in red.

But despite Gaertner’s use of technical terms, including “adjusted virions” and “conformational rearrangements,” the email contains no evidence to prove the point. Gaertner has appeared on web programs that link vaccines to the creation of superspreaders, and he promotes the use of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19. Some studies find ivermectin effective in treating COVID-19; others have found no impact.

One Instagram user who shared the image posted an update saying, “Just to be clear this email appears to have been sent to Fauci through public inquiry, so it doesn’t necessarily link Fauci to anything.”

Our ruling

A Facebook post says, “Fauci’s fellow scientist could tell early on that the (coronavirus) looked manufactured.”

The only email that came close to matching that claim noted that while some evidence suggested the virus might be man-made, more work was needed and that opinion could change. The email presented a possibility — a starting point for more research — not a conclusion. The man who wrote that email concluded that the virus developed naturally in a scientific journal article in March 2020.

We rate this claim False.

This article was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for these fact checks here and more of their fact checks here.

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Jon Greenberg is a senior correspondent with PolitiFact. He was part of the PolitiFact team during the 2012 presidential election and was one of the…
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