Dr. Paul Makes Case for Lab Leak at First Full Senate Committee Hearing on COVID-19 Origins

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, at the first full Senate committee hearing on the origins of COVID-19, which he helped secure, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, examined and made the case for a lab leak. The bipartisan hearing, entitled “Origins of COVID-19: An Examination of Available Evidence,” featured scientists who presented evidence based on their professional expertise, marking a crucial step toward uncovering the truth about COVID-19’s origins. This hearing is the first of a series as part of the Committee’s joint investigation into threats posed by high-risk biological research and technology in the U.S. and abroad.

During the hearing, Dr. Paul presented key pieces of evidence supporting the likelihood that COVID-19 originated from a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Dr. Paul referenced the recent assessments by the Department of Energy (DOE) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which emphasize the risky nature of coronavirus research at the WIV and suggest that the pandemic most likely resulted from a lab leak. He also noted that three WIV scientists reportedly fell ill with COVID-like symptoms in the fall of 2019, further supporting the lab leak theory. Dr. Steven Quay, a witness at the hearing, highlighted the longstanding history of safety issues at WIV, which resides in close proximity to the epicenter of COVID-19. Dr. Quay also pointed out that over 400 animals from the wet market were tested for SARS-CoV-2, and zero were infected. 

Throughout the hearing, Dr. Paul showcased the concerning conduct of the inner circle of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). For instance, Dr. Robert Garry, a witness in the hearing and one of the authors of the infamous Proximal Origin paper, made contradicting statements by privately agreeing with the lab leak theory while publicly promoting the natural origins narrative. Another witness, Dr. Richard Ebright, criticized the Proximal Origin paper for downplaying the lab leak theory, arguing that it was an opinion piece lacking proper research to substantiate its conclusions.

Dr. Paul remains steadfast in his initiative to uncover the truth, implement necessary safeguards, and ultimately learn from COVID-19 in order to prevent future pandemics.

View the Ranking Member’s opening statement here, part one of his questioning here and part two here.

Opening remarks as delivered below:

Today, we are here to examine one of the most critical and debated questions of our time: Did COVID-19 originate in a lab? To answer this question, let’s revisit the early days of the pandemic and examine what some of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s inner circle said privately about the origins of the virus, discussions that were only revealed through FOIA litigation. 

Kristian Andersen wrote, “the lab escape version of this is so friggin’ likely to have happened because they were already doing this type of work and the molecular data is fully consistent with that scenario.” 

Ian Lipkin stressed the “nightmare of circumstantial evidence to assess” regarding the possibility of inadvertent release given the scale of bat coronavirus research pursued in Wuhan. 

Bob Garry said, “[I] really can’t think of a plausible natural scenario when you get from the bat virus, or one very similar to it, COVID–19 where you insert exactly four amino acids, 12 nucleotides, and all have to be added at the exact same time to gain this function. I just can’t figure out how this gets accomplished in nature.’’ According to Garry, “it’s not crackpot to suggest this could have happened, given the gain of function research we know was happening in Wuhan.” 

Even Ralph Baric, world-famous gain-of-function researcher and collaborator with Wuhan’s Dr. Shi, admitted, “So they [the Wuhan Institute of Virology] have a very large collection of viruses in their laboratory. And so it’s—you know—proximity is a problem. It’s a problem.”

Federal court orders reveal that even Dr. Fauci himself privately acknowledged concerns about gain-of-function research in Wuhan and “mutations in the virus that suggest it might have been engineered” just days before he commissioned the Proximal Origin paper.

Despite these private doubts, publicly, these so-called experts and their allies were dismissing the lab leak theory as a conspiracy. Within days, Anderson, Lipkin, and Garry were putting the final touches on what will be remembered as one of the most remarkable reversals in modern history.

In their Proximal Origin paper, these scientists concluded “we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.” Privately they were saying one thing, publicly they were saying another. Media pundits parroted this narrative, while social media platforms censored discussion about the lab leak, labeling it as misinformation and stifling open discourse about the virus’s origins.

The cover-up went beyond public statements. Federal agencies and key officials withheld and continue to conceal crucial information from both Congress and the public. 

For instance, Dr. David Morens of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) deleted emails that could have contained valuable insights into early discussions. When he deleted them, he made the comment, “I think we’re safe now.” He deleted emails. He said the early emails, “I’ve deleted to Peter Daszak at EcoHealth. I think we’re safe now.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) failed to comply with a law passed by Congress unanimously. One of the senators on this committee got it passed. We were going to declassify all of this and reveal it and the administration has refused.

HHS and NIH have not produced documents related to gain of function research that the Chairman and I requested nearly a year ago. I’ve been asking for two or three years as an individual member with some other Republican members and have not gotten these records. I’ve now asked with the Democrat Chairman and they’re still resisting.

They say it’s not gain-of-function. Well, let’s hear the debate. Did they debate at NIH whether it was gain-of-function in Wuhan? If there’s a debate, let’s hear the scientific arguments on both sides. They will not give us that information.

This has been a deliberate, prolonged effort to deceive the committee about certain gain-of-function research experiments that the agencies have been withholding. What we have found as we’ve gone through this is at every step there’s been resistance.

So the hearing today is to try and find out whether or not we can get to the truth. Do we know for certain it came from the lab? No, but there’s a preponderance of evidence indicating that it may have come from the lab. Do we know viruses have come from animals in the past? Yes, they’ve come from animals in the past.

But this time, there’s no animal reservoir. There’s no animal handlers with antibiotics. There’s a lot of reasons why there are indications that this could have come from the lab.

This is the discussion we’ll have today. This is a discussion that’s long in coming. It’s been over three years that we’ve been asking for this. But this is great. This is good. We’ll have scientists on both sides of this issue, and I hope we have a spirited debate. Thank you.