Project Veritas COVID-19 misinformation spreads on Twitter, YouTube

By suppressing Fauci’s full response and acknowledging that a lab leak was unlikely but not impossible, Project Veritas attempted to discredit him and push the idea that COVID-19 originated in a lab and didn’t happen. was not naturally developed.

In the video, O’Keefe presented a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) proposal that was leaked in the fall of 2021 and reported on by The Intercept. DARPA’s proposal showed that the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance applied for a grant in 2018 for research and possibly develop vaccines for bats in China that had contracted forms of coronavirus thought to be able to mutate to infect humans. According to the documentsthe grant was partly refused because the application did not address the risks of “gain-of-function” research. O’Keefe claimed it was because there was a moratorium on such research. However, this moratorium was survey in 2017, but with severe limitations.

Gain of function“refers to any research that may result in genetic mutations in the virus being studied that result in additional “function”, such as “higher yields for vaccine strains”. Nature the magazine defines it as a form of virology, “in which scientists endow pathogens with new capabilities to study them.” These abilities are not inherently malicious. But O’Keefe and others are using the idea of ​​”gain-of-function” research to push the lab leak theory and suggest that COVID-19 resulted from an intentional mutation of a bat coronavirus that allowed transmission to humans.

In fact, DARPA has never approved funding for this kind of “gain-of-function” research, and although EcoHealth Alliance received funds from NIAID under Fauci to work on bat coronavirus research in mice in 2014, there is no scientific consensus on whether this even qualifies as high-risk or gain-of-function research. The only conflict arose when EcoHealth Alliance failed to properly report the results of its findings to the National Institutes of Health, which oversees NIAID.

O’Keefe’s only original evidence that Fauci lied comes from a memo from Marine Corps Maj. Joseph Murphy, which claims he had a scholarship at DARPA. However, Murphy’s memo made several unsubstantiated claims, including that DARPA’s failed EcoHealth Alliance proposal was taken up by NIAID, and his only evidence is that he attended a few meetings of the DARPA during its fellowship.

Right-wing lawmakers seized on the video — and Project Veritas used their attention to raise money

Far-right members of Congress jumped on this video when it was released, especially since it dropped the day before Fauci was due to testify before the Senate again last month. During this hearing, Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) asked Fauci about “gain of function” research. Fauci responded directly to the Project Veritas video, saying he had never seen the DARPA grant and it was not related to NIAID-funded research.

Marshall later promoted the Project Veritas video on various right-wing outlets, including in appearances with Fox hosts. Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity.

Project Veritas also touted the congressional support this video is getting from Republicans in an email blast that read:

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