Gottlieb told “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson that a senior official in former President Donald Trump’s administration had informed him there was suspicion that the strain “looked unusual,” which prompted Fauci to address the possibility that it had leaked from a research laboratory in Wuhan.
Dickerson began with the public release of Fauci’s emails, asking what Gottlieb made of the content.
“I didn’t think there was anything remarkable in those emails. I don’t think there was anything that Tony said that expressed any ill intent, and nothing that was new,” Gottlieb replied, saying that there had always been two theories on the origins of the virus — a natural derivation or a leak from a lab — but that there had been little real evidence to support either one.
“We have other information now that fits into this picture. The science is one piece of information, but there is a lot of other information that points in the direction that this could have come out of a lab, that we need to have a broader view about the potential risk that this was a lab leak,” Gottlieb continued.
Dickerson pressed Gottlieb on that possibility, pointing out the fact that critics have claimed that Fauci had not been entirely forthcoming with regard to the idea that COVID-19 could have originated in a lab.
“Well, I was told at that time, back in the spring, that Dr. Fauci had gone over to a meeting of world health leaders in Europe and actually briefed them on the information that they were looking at, that this could have been a potential lab leak, that this strain looked unusual,” Gottlieb replied. “I think early on, when they looked at the strain, they had suspicions. And it takes time to do that analysis, and that dispelled some of those suspicions.”
Gottlieb concluded by saying that it was a mistake to only look at the virus from a scientific perspective.
“The broader issue is we look at these things through the lens of science, and not necessarily through the lens of national security,” Gottlieb said. “A scientific mindset looks at the virus and the virus’ behavior and draws a conclusion. A national security assessment looks at that and then looks at the behavior of the Chinese government, the behavior of the lab, other evidence around the lab, including the infections we now know took place, and that changes the overall assessment.”