Fauci grilled by House GOP over COVID-19 response, origins

Dr. Anthony Fauci, former Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, arrives to testify before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic at the Rayburn House Office Bu

Dr. Anthony Fauci is facing questioning by House Republicans about his response to COVID-19 and the origins of the virus at a hearing on Capitol Hill. 

During his Monday testimony, Fauci got into a heated exchange with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

What led to the exchange?

Greene started by bringing up a quote Fauci made on CBS that he "represents science." The politician grilled Fauci to give a yes or no answer, to which he provided a retort refuting what Greene said. 

The questioning transitioned to Greene showing Fauci a photo of two dogs involved in scientific experiments. Greene claimed that Fauci, while director of the National Institutes of Health, signed off on the "torture of the animals."

Greene then grilled Fauci alleging that he "made up the COVID rules" including social distancing and masking of children. 

"I didn't say I made anything up.  I said that it is not based in science and it just appeared," Fauci tried to explain before being interrupted by Greene. 

Greene then held up the photo of the dogs a second time as she tried to double-down on her assertion that Fauci signed off on the experiments of the animals, as Fauci questioned what dogs had to do with the discussion. 

Greene then tried to discredit Fauci, claiming that "he's not a doctor" and shouldn't have a license and should be in prison. 

Fauci has long said publicly that he was open to both theories but that there’s more evidence supporting COVID-19’s natural origins, the way other deadly viruses including coronavirus cousins SARS and MERS jumped into people.

"I have repeatedly stated that I have a completely open mind to either possibility and that if definitive evidence becomes available to validate or refute either theory, I will ready accept it," he said in an opening statement for Monday’s hearing.

The House panel also questioned him about the science behind some controversial advice, including social distancing.

Monday’s testimony by Fauci was his first time publicly testifying since he left the federal government in 2022.

What is the Republican-led subcommittee hearing related to?

The hearing comes as Republicans on the House Select Subcommittee on the pandemic have spent 15 months reviewing emails, messages, and research proposals to find evidence against Fauci, the former White House chief medical advisor.

Many scientists believe the virus most likely emerged in nature and jumped from animals to people, probably at a wildlife market in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began. There’s no new scientific information supporting that the virus might instead have leaked from a laboratory. 

The Associated Press reported that a U.S. intelligence analysis noted there’s insufficient evidence to prove either way -- and a recent Associated Press investigation found the Chinese government froze critical efforts to trace the source of the virus in the first weeks of the outbreak.

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GOP members on the panel have tried to build a case that lab work funded by the institute Fauci used to run possibly contributed to the start of the pandemic.

Separately, Republicans have targeted money the institute awarded to EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S.-based organization to a 'One Health' approach to protecting the health of people, animals and the environment from emerging infectious diseases, per its website.

The GOP panel has alleged that the scientists from the organization created the coronavirus in their Wuhan, China lab. 

According to the New York Times, after reviewing millions of pages of documents and over 100 hours of testimony, the panel didn't find anything connecting Fauci to the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in China.

RELATED: Anthony Fauci ‘concerned’ people won’t comply if masking recommendations return: 'I hope' they 'abide'

However, the House Select Subcommittee panel found emails suggesting that Fauci’s former aides attempted to avoid public records laws at the medical research agency he led for 38 years until he retired in December 2022. 

Some emails imply Fauci prioritized his public image and questions about research funded by his agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

As for hiding public records, Fauci said in the opening remarks that "to the best of my knowledge I have never conducted official business via my personal email."

Fauci previously said he had "nothing to hide" and volunteered to testify before the panel, ABC News reported. 

The 83-year-old spent over 50 years in government service and advised former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden on outbreaks of infectious diseases such as AIDS, Ebola, anthrax, and the flu.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Washington, D.C.