Dr. Anthony Fauci says he has a "completely open mind" about the origins of COVID-19, but added that the scientific evidence "strongly" suggests it was not leaked from a lab.
Fauci made the comments during a Sunday appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation." Host Margaret Brennan asked Fauci about China's transparency regarding the origins of COVID-19 and how the country's leading Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was handling calls for investigation from across the globe.
"We keep a completely open mind as to what the origin is," Fauci said. "Having said that, if you look at the examination by highly-qualified international scientists with no political agendas--they've published in peer-reviewed journals--that all accumulated evidence, particularly relating to the Chinese bringing into the Wuhan market animals from the wild that should not have been there … the evidence is quite strong that this is a natural occurrence."
"Does that mean we've ruled out that there was something funny going on and it leaked? Absolutely [not]," he added. "I and all of my colleagues keep an absolutely open mind. We've got to investigate every possibility, because this is too important not to do that. That's not incompatible with saying the scientific evidence still weighs much more strongly that this is a natural occurrence."
Fauci went on to criticize China's lack of transparency regarding the origins of COVID-19, arguing that their refusal to cooperate invited suspicion when there may not have been any reason for it. He nevertheless fell short of accusing China of a "cover-up."
While Fauci is retiring from his position at the top of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in December, Republicans are sure to keep him on Capitol Hill with hearings. GOP lawmakers have called for investigations into Fauci's handling of the pandemic as well as his interactions with Chinese health authorities.
Fauci said he is more than willing to testify before the House, as he has done many times before. He got in a slight dig at Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., however, pointing out that his long-time critic would not be able to summon him since Republicans failed to take control of the Senate in the midterm elections.
Fauci at times became enraged when facing questions from Paul, who himself vowed to further investigate Fauci when he won re-election on Nov. 8.
"I will not only hold Dr. Fauci accountable, we will finally investigate why your tax dollars were sent to fund dangerous research in Wuhan," Paul said in his victory speech. "I promise you this: the COVID cover-up will end."