HONG KONG, May 26, 2021, CNN. After weeks of facing fierce attacks from Republicans, top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci now has a new critic: Chinese state media. “US elites degenerate further in morality, and Fauci is one of them,” was the headline of a blistering opinion piece penned by Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times this week, CNN reported.
In the article Hu accused the top US infectious disease expert of “fanning a huge lie against China” by hyping the theory that the coronavirus was leaked from a Wuhan lab. Another article in the Global Times declared that Fauci had “betrayed Chinese scientists.”
The anger is centered on Fauci’s remarks this month that he is no longer convinced the Covid-19 pandemic originated naturally.
“I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened,” said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at a fact-checking symposium on May 11.
The comments appear to be a shift from Fauci’s earlier view that the disease likely was the result of animal to human transmission.
Fauci’s comments were followed by a Wall Street Journal exclusive, citing a US intelligence report, that said three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care — a revelation that, if true, could add weight to growing calls for further investigation into whether the coronavirus may have escaped from the Chinese lab.
Unsurprisingly, China has vehemently refuted the report, echoing its repeated dismissal of any allegations that link the origin of the virus to the lab. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the report was “totally inconsistent with the facts” and a director at the lab called the report “a complete lie.”
In the meantime, Chinese state media has lashed out at Fauci, saying he has joined an “opinion war against China.”
The attack on Fauci is an about-face from the positive portrayal of him in earlier coverage. Last year, as Fauci repeatedly spoke out against the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, Chinese state media published glowing reports praising the scientist for his professionalism and courage to speak the truth.
Fauci has since attempted to clarify his remarks. On Tuesday, he told CBS News correspondent Weijia Jiang that his opinion about the origins of Covid-19 have not changed and still believes that its origin in nature is “highly likely.”
“Since no one is 100% sure, he’s open to a thorough investigation. Dr. Fauci said that does not mean he believes the virus first emerged in a lab, as some have suggested,” Jiang wrote on Twitter.
Whether that will redeem his image in China, however, remains unclear.