In a newly-launched podcast called “Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz,” the Trump-ally and U.S. Congressman used a good portion of his first episode to push back against claims made during a recent 60 Minutes segment. CBS Correspondent Scott Peeley accused Gaetz of leading a “political disinformation campaign” against the Ecohealth Alliance, a New York company that received millions of dollars in grant money from the National Institutes of Health, which then funneled some of the cash to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
But buried in the original 60 Minutes segment is the shocking admission that the Wuhan lab had taken U.S. taxpayer dollars for 15 years, ostensibly to help prevent the next big outbreak, and yet never had COVID-19 in it’s inventory of viruses. Even with a 15-year head start, and a mission to identify the “next emerging disease,” they failed to spot COVID-19 in time. Now, the U.S. research company that funneled the cash to China wants its U.S. funding restored so they can continue researching bat viruses. They spoke extensively to 60 Minutes about their work, which was then echoed by left-wing media outlets around the nation, focusing on Gaetz as one of the prime movers in getting the Trump Administration to cancel the funding. From the 60 Minutes story:
On April 14, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz claimed China’s Wuhan Institute had, quote, “birthed a monster.”
Matt Gaetz on “Tucker Carlson Tonight”: The NIH gives this $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they then advertise that they need coronavirus researchers. Following that, coronavirus erupts in Wuhan.
There never was a $3.7 million U.S. grant to the Wuhan lab. But, the falsehood spread like a virus, in the White House, and without verification, in the briefing room.
Reporter in White House press briefing: There’s also another report that the NIH, under the Obama administration, in 2015 gave that lab $3.7 million in a grant. Why would the U.S. give a grant like that to China?
President Trump: The Obama administration gave them a grant of $3.7 million? I’ve been hearing about that. And we’ve instructed that if any grants are going to that area – we’re looking at it, literally, about an hour ago, and also early in the morning. We will end that grant very quickly.
It turns out the grant went to U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance, which then outsourced the work to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
On his new podcast, Gaetz made the case that “confronting China” is one of the biggest challenges of our time. He highlighted the concept of medical diplomacy and accused China of hiding the true nature of the COVID-19 virus in order to give the Chinese government more time to procure protective equipment and to obscure the true origin of the virus while it spread across the globe. Then he directly addressed the 60 Minutes segment.
“I take some exception to the fact that the U.S. taxpayer is off providing even one dollar to research that’s going on in places where we can’t necessarily trust the governments to provide us with factual information,” Gaetz said, pointing out that $800,000 of the $3.7 million NIH grant went to the Wuhan Lab. “I would expect if someone is in partnership with the U.S. government and the U.S. taxpayer, that that means at the least, in the time of a pandemic, in the time of an outbreak, that we would be able to count on them to be truthful with us.”
Gaetz confirmed he called on the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Alex Azar to stop funding the grant, and President Trump made good on his word to do so April 23rd.
The segment on 60 Minutes attempts to portray EcoHealth Alliance as the victim of Gaetz and Trump. But Gaetz pointed out that the U.S.-based company is still eligible for grant money, however, they will no longer be allowed to funnel cash to countries and entities that aren’t fully collaborating with the United States.
“Why is it appropriate for the Wuhan Institute of Virology to wait 10 days after sequencing this virus to share the information?” Gaetz wondered allowed on his podcast. “Why is that not the 60 Minutes episode?”
EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak told 60 Minutes that he’s been working with the Wuhan Institute for 15 years “cataloguing bat viruses,” research he argues is “critical right now.”
But when asked by 60 Minutes to explain the “critical work” Wuhan lab did over that span, Daszak didn’t have a lot to offer.
“The breakthrough drug, Remdesivir, that seems to have some impact on COVID-19,” Daszak offered, “was actually tested against the viruses we discovered under our NIH research funding.”
Note that he doesn’t say Remdesivir was ever tested on COVID-19 because of the Wuhan lab’s work. In fact, he acknowledges that despite 15 years of research into bat viruses, they missed COVID-19:
Scott Pelley: Does the Wuhan Institute of Virology, to your knowledge, have this virus in its inventory?
Peter Daszak: No.
Scott Pelley: Why do you say so?
Peter Daszak: The closest known relative is one that’s different enough that it is not SARS-CoV-2. So, there’s just no evidence that anybody had it in the lab anywhere in the world prior to the outbreak.
Now Daszak and his Chinese partners want more money so they can help “prevent the next big outbreak.”
Brian Burgess contributed to this story.