On Wednesday night, NewsNation fill-in host and former Fox News correspondent Leland Vittert did what few national news outlets have done in subjecting the NIH’s Dr. Tony Fauci to a challenging interview. In this case, he focused on this week’s dump of thousands of Fauci e-mails from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic that showed a woeful lack of judgement, distrust of masks, and an almost blind trust in communist China.
As has been the case whenever he’s been challenged, Fauci reacted with a combination of anger, annoyance, dismissal, and disgust. Unfortunately for him, it stood in stark contrast to softball interviews hours earlier with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace and NBC’s Kate Snow.
Vittert tried to start on a lighter note by joking to Fauci that “[i]t's always a little disconcerting for the world to read your e-mails — 3,000 of them — over the past 24 hours or so,” but Fauci refused to crack even a smile.
Having been asked if there was anything he would have said that he didn’t at the time, Fauci griped that about how his e-mails “are really ripe to be taken out of context where someone can snip out a sentence in an e-mail without showing the other e-mails.”
Fauci walked right into Vittert’s line of questioning as he brought up one from February 4, 2020 that dismissed the effectiveness of “the typical mask you buy in the drug store” against the spread of the coronavirus.
Predictably, Fauci insisted “it is a complicated issue” and, without stating it explicitly, he and his fellow scientists discouraged mask-wearing not out of any scientific reasoning, but so as to ensure health care workers had as much personal protective equipment (PPE) as possible.
After a question about whether he’d be making money from book or movie deals, Vittert honed in on Fauci’s admission that it’s hard to know whether applicants for scientific grants lied to the U.S. government and what it meant for unearthing what happened at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in late 2019 and early 2020: “Other than taking the Chinese word for it, do we have any idea on what's going on inside the Wuhan lab or what went on inside the Wuhan lab?”
Fauci again called for “put[ting] things in context” and praised the scientists there as having been “credible” and “trusted” because, according to Fauci, none of them had anything to do with the Chinese Community Party or the military.
Vittert interjected to cite former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Dunford as having said there’s no distinction between Chinese industries and the regime’s apparatchik.
Fauci played dumb and asked Vittert to read it again, so not only did he do that, but the former Fox reporter argued that Fauci seems to have been saying “we should just trust the Chinese when they say, ‘oh, the military has nothing to do with this’” (click “expand”):
VITTERT: “Dunford said Thursday that the Chinese typically require companies doing business in China” — that not even talking about scientists.
FAUCI: Right, yeah.
VITTERT: Where it’s talking about businesses, which is lower than even Chinese government scientists, to have members of the ruling Communist Party in that company, a requirement that will allow the Chinese military access to the company's intellectual property. It's a distinction without a difference between the Chinese Communist Party, the government and the Chinese military.” And I guess from hearing from you is we should just trust the Chinese when they say—
VITTERT: — oh, the military has nothing to do with this. We should believe them.
FAUCI: No. What I'm — what I'm saying is that we have very many years of experience of productive interaction with Chinese scientists. For example, Dr. George Gal who's the director of the Chinese CDC, has been a colleague for many years. He's a member of the United States national academy of sciences. Number one, number two, the science is there and others that we dealt with — with the original SARS, with the influenza virtually every year. The scientists are experienced with them.
Vittert wasn’t satisfied with Fauci’s Jen Psaki-like dodges, so he pointed out how it’s important to get to the bottom of what happened because “all of the comments that were made about what happened inside that lab are based essentially on taking the Chinese word for” it even though “it seems pretty clear that the Chinese lied about a number of things[.]”
Peeved that he had to answer tough questions instead of being sucked up to by people whose homes likely contain his face on candles, pillows, and t-shirts, Fauci got rather angry with Vittert and accused him of “extrapolation.”
For his part, Vittert didn’t lash out and even as Fauci admitted he “can’t guarantee everything that's going on in the Wuhan lab” (click “expand”):
FAUCI: Well, can we again, with due respect, put things into perspective. The — the Wuhan lab is a very large lab to the tune of hundreds of millions if not billions dollars.
FAUCI: Take that. The grant that we're talking about was $600,000 over five years for an average of about 125,000 to $140,000 a year. So now you’re making an extrapolation that we sent in —
VITTERT: No, sir. I’m not — I’m not making any extrapolation.
FAUCI: — no, but you’re —
VITTERT: No, sir. No, sir. I’m not making any extrapolation. I’m simply saying the fact of the matter is that so much of what was — we were told as Americans about what we knew —
VITTERT: — from Chinese was based simply on taking their word, right?
VITTERT: Right? That’s fair? Okay. And — and based on that, we really have no idea who the scientists were in the labs.
FAUCI: Well, well —
VITTERT: Some of the names that you tossed out who I'm sure that we've done wonderful research could very easily have — shall we say —
FAUCI: — but —
VITTERT: — cross — dual purposes. Dual roles and obligations both to the Chinese military and of the civilian CDC —
VITTERT: — as General Dunford thought.
FAUCI: Now you're absolutely correct that I can’t guarantee everything that's going on in the Wuhan lab. We can't do that. But it is our obligation as scientists and public health individuals to study the animal-human interface because we had very difficult experience that we lucked out that we didn't get hurt too badly with the original SARS in 2002 and 2003, which was clearly a jumping of species from a bat to civic cat to human. So it was incumbent upon us to study the animals-human interface and to understand what the potential these viruses have of infecting humans which then might damage the United States, so please let me finish. So you don't want to go to Hoboken, New Jersey or to Fairfax Virginia to be studying the bat-human interface that might lead to an outbreak.
As NewsBusters’s Nick Fondacaro wrote on Wednesday night, the major broadcast networks couldn’t have cared less about the trove of e-mails that, if Americans hadn’t already lost confidence in Fauci, would have certainly caused them to sour on the highly-compensated bureaucrat.
To see the transcript of the interview from NewsNation’s The Donlon Report on June 2, click here.