Scientists who helped Dr. Anthony Fauci dismiss the theory that the coronavirus leaked from a Chinese lab now claim to have located the real culprit behind the pandemic’s outbreak: fluffy, fox-like creatures known as raccoon dogs.
According to Rutgers University professor of chemical biology Richard Ebright, the claim that humans contracted the virus from raccoon dogs sold for consumption in a Wuhan wet market is “pseudoscientific nonsense,” peddled by “stooges who have been peddling pseudoscientific nonsense for three years.” The researchers based their claim on data from Chinese scientists, which they have not made available for independent or peer review. Nor have they published the text of their study, choosing instead to send their findings to the Atlantic, which on Thursday declared the unvetted study “the strongest evidence yet that an animal started the pandemic.”
The researchers’ claim comes as lawmakers scrutinize Fauci and others who dismissed the lab leak theory at the outset of the pandemic. The FBI, Department of Energy, and a growing cadre of independent virologists say COVID-19 likely emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. House Republicans recently launched an investigation into the pandemic’s origins but have conceded that Chinese obstruction will make it hard to uncover the full story. Fauci commissioned two of the lead scientists behind the raccoon dog research to author a paper dismissing the lab leak theory in February 2020.
The researchers claim that a swab taken in January 2020 from a cart at the Huanan wet market contained genetic material from a raccoon dog and COVID-19. But as the New York Times reported, the data do not prove the raccoon dog was infected—just that it was in the same location as the virus. Even if the creature was infected, the Times added, it wouldn’t prove that it was spreading the virus to humans at the market.
Former National Security Council official Jamie Metzl told Yahoo News that there’s a “zero percent chance that the evidence released so far constitutes a smoking gun proving a market origin of the pandemic,” and that anyone pushing the raccoon dog claim as proof of such “is engaging in fraud.”