60 Minutes report critical of Gaetz’ role in cutting grant for COVID-19 research

Northwest Florida

Scientist says move will "probably cost lives"

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

(WKRG) – UPDATE: Congressman Matt Gaetz has issued the following statement in response to criticism from 60 minutes.

“Following criticism of taxpayer funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Congressman Gaetz spoke with President Trump, Chief of Staff Meadows, and senior leadership at HHS.

Portions of the $3.7 million went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is why it took several days following his criticism of the grant for HHS to successfully divorce the money going to the WIV from funds otherwise appropriately spent.” -Office of Congressman Gaetz

Northwest Florida congressman Matt Gaetz featured prominently in a 60 Minutes report Sunday night critical of President Trump’s cuts for coronavirus research, possibly jeopardizing a COVID-19 cure.

Gaetz has been most vocal critic of a National Institute of Health grant to Dr. Peter Daszak’s U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance for disease prevention. Gaetz said the grant provided $3.7 million to the Wuhan Institute of Virology with which Daszak does research.

Daszak says only $100,000 went to the Chinese institute. Now none will, after the Trump administration cancelled the grant.

Daszak has spent his career discovering dangerous viruses in wildlife, and in 2003 predicted a deadly SARS pandemic. He says working with the Chinese is essential.

“I can’t just show up in China and say, ‘Hi, I wanna work on your viruses,'” Daszak told 60 Minutes. “I have to do this through the correct channels. So, what we do is we talk to NIH, and they approve the people we can work with in China. And that happened. And our collaboration with Wuhan was preapproved by NIH.”

Daszak’s federal grant money was reauthorized and increased by the Trump administration just last year, before the COVID-19 outbreak. 60 Minutes reported that “dishonest and negligent allegations” by Gaetz and others who claim COVID-19 was developed in a Chinese laboratory resulted in the grant being cut.

Daszak says the result could be deadly.

“It’s sad to say, but it will probably cost lives,” he told 60 minutes. “By sort of narrow-mindedly focusing in on ourselves, or on labs, or on certain cultural politics, we miss the real enemy.”

See the full 60 Minutes report here

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