According to Cotton, the Fauci could be involved in a "genuine scandal" with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
During a May 23 Fox News appearance, Cotton said that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) must "come clean and tell [Congress] exactly what happened. Cotton added that he thinks many of the scientific bureaucrats and experts "are trying to cover their tracks" on where COVID-19 really came from.
The lawmaker also commented on the "gain of function" research conducted at the Wuhan facility, which received NIH funding. The research aimed to examine sickness-causing pathogens such as bat coronaviruses. Chinese scientists at the WIV, led by the institute's resident expert Shi Zhengli, frequently visited the caves in southern China's Yunnan province to collect samples of coronaviruses from bats.
"This could be public health bureaucrats violating explicit direction from the Obama [administration] … to continue research that is highly, highly dangerous and particularly susceptible to escape from a laboratory – especially [one based] in China," Cotton said.
"The money that the NIH gave went to an American organization, which turned around and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to these Wuhan labs," he explained, adding that these labs then proceeded to "investigate coronaviruses … and find ways to make them more contagious and more dangerous."
Cotton also brought up the idea that the virus escaped from the WIV facility during his Fox News appearance. "Dr. Fauci has been to Congress, and he said this absolutely did not happen. But [he] is playing word games," he said. The U.S. senator added that he and other colleagues approached Fauci's boss, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, to "come clean" and explain why the gain of function research continued to be funded despite an explicit ban on it.
A spokesperson for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent by Fox News. Fauci is the incumbent NIAID director.
Cotton has been searching for evidence that COVID-19 leaked from a laboratory for more than a year now. He has also called for a deeper investigation of the pathogen's origins since the pandemic struck. Despite these, Cotton received criticism for being a "conspiracy theorist."
Fauci, on the other hand, received more media attention when he admitted that the Wuhan coronavirus leaking from a laboratory may be true. (Related: Tom Cotton blames China for coronavirus spread, says Beijing made "conscious decision" to allow it to escape the country.)
A May 24 report by The Hill said the NIAID director was "not convinced" the Wuhan coronavirus developed naturally. The infectious disease expert said during an event: "[On the matter of SARS-CoV-2 developing naturally,] I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out … what happened."
But even before Cotton voiced out his sentiments toward Fauci, his colleague Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) engaged in a verbal showdown with the NIAID director. During a May 11 congressional hearing, Paul zoomed in on claims that SARS-CoV-2 did escape a laboratory in Wuhan. (Related: Dr. Rand Paul doubles down, takes on Dr. Fauci and the coronavirus gain-of-function coverup.)
"Three million people have died from this pandemic, and that should cause us to explore all possibilities. Instead, government authorities self-interested in continuing 'gain of function' research say there's nothing to see here. To arrive at the truth, the U.S. government should admit that the Wuhan laboratory was experimenting to enhance the coronavirus's ability to infect humans," Paul said.
Fauci defended himself and told the U.S. senator for Kentucky that he was "entirely and completely incorrect." He denied the lawmaker's claim that the NIH funded gain of function research in the Chinese facility. "I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I'm fully in favor of any further investigation. However, I will repeat again: The NIH and NIAID categorically [have] not funded 'gain of function' research," Fauci said.
Paul doubled down on his claims when he spoke to WKRC 12 on May 20. He told the CBS affiliate: "We should not be experimenting with making [the Wuhan coronavirus] more transmissible. [What] if something were to escape that is … deadly and cause a pandemic? When you see [Fauci's] answers in the testimony, you see someone who is not genuine because he has actually been an outspoken advocate of gain of function [research.]"
Visit Pandemic.news to read more stories about the investigation on the origins of COVID-19.