U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) addressed the media on Wednesday to discuss two public health oversight bills he signed last week.
One of the bills requires the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create an Office of Inspector General to monitor federal grant funding. Federal law requires Inspectors General to independently oversee the federal agency they are assigned to. Tuberville said that the NIH does not currently have an Inspector General.
A report from the Department of Health and Human Services released earlier this month found that the NIH did not provide adequate oversight of money it awarded to research projects, such as the ones at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans felt misled by the constant, conflicting messaging coming from public health agencies,” Tuberville said. “... Americans got a front-row seat to see just how little accountability there was for [the NIH] … The NIH currently does not have an inspector general, leaving the enormous levels of funding spent by the agency with little oversight.”
The other bill would place a moratorium on all federal research grants involving gain-of-function research. Gain-of-function research is medical research that involves genetically altering organisms to enhance their biological functions.
Though formerly denied by former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, American taxpayer dollars were used to fund gain-of-function research at the WIV.
Some have suggested that the WIV was involved with the origins of COVID-19.
Corporate media outlets and Democrats ridiculed the suggestion as a “conspiracy theory.” Still, senior officials in President Joe Biden’s office later admitted the theories were credible. An October 2022 Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions report found that the virus “was most likely the result of a research-related incident.”
“Gain-of-function research on infectious diseases puts the American people at great risk because it directly alters viruses that can be deadly,” Tuberville said. “Until we are 100% these agencies have the right guardrails in place, not a single dollar of taxpayer funds should be spent on gain-of-function research at the NIH or elsewhere.”
Last week, Tuberville referenced the two bills on Twitter by sharing a video from Project Veritas in which an alleged Pfizer employee discusses the possibility of the pharmaceutical company mutating the COVID-19 virus to create new vaccines.
Project Veritas released the video of the alleged Pfizer employee on Wednesday evening. Veritas founder James O’Keefe claimed to have information confirming the alleged employee, Jordan Walker, is, in fact, a Pfizer employee under the title of “Director of Research and Development Strategic Operations and MRNA Scientific Planning.”
Walker said that he’s not talking about gain-of-function but “directed evolution,” which he said were not necessarily the same things.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson from Tuberville’s office clarified that the new NIH Inspector General could only investigate Pfizer research if it used NIH money to conduct it. This is because an Inspector General’s jurisdiction is exclusive to the federal agency they reside over.
Nevertheless, the federal government has invested heavily in developing COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer made billions of dollars from the pandemic, doubling its revenue between 2020 and 2021. However, whether the NIH specifically sent money to the company is unclear.
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