National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday said the Biden administration has not reached a consensus on the origins of COVID-19 despite an assessment from the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) that the virus likely originated from an accidental lab leak in China.
The comments came in response to Fox News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich, who asked Kirby how Americans should understand China’s assertion that the DOE’s assessment was politically motivated and lacked merit.
“The president made trying to find the origins of COVID a priority when he got into office. And he’s got a whole-of-government effort designed to do that,” Kirby said. “There is not a consensus right now in the U.S. government about exactly how COVID started. There is just not an intelligence community consensus.”
Kirby said the effort has not been confined to the intelligence community as the president has tasked the national labs – which report to the DOE – to study COVID’s origins.
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“That work is still ongoing, but the president believes it’s really important that we continue that work and that we find out as best we can how it started so that we can better prevent a future pandemic,” Kirby said.
Pressed to respond to China’s assertion that the assessment is a politically motivated attack, Kirby said he refused to “get ahead of where we are in the process.”
“The president wants to understand [what caused COVID] so we can better prevent future pandemics,” Kirby said. “Given that we don’t have a consensus, it would be foolish for me to get out ahead of speculation on hypothetical situations to come. We just aren’t there yet.”
Previously undecided on the origin of the pandemic, the DOE now joins the FBI’s stance that COVID-19 likely spread due to a mishap at a Chinese laboratory, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress.
Reporters pressed Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning about the report on Monday. Mao dismissed the report, citing the much-criticized WHO-China investigation into the virus’ origins.
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“The origins-tracing of SARS-CoV-2 is about science and should not be politicized. China has always supported and participated in global science-based origins-tracing,” Mao said Monday. “‘A laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely’ is a science-based, authoritative conclusion reached by the experts of the WHO-China joint mission after field trips to the lab in Wuhan and in-depth communication with researchers. It was accurately recorded in the mission’s report and has received extensive recognition from the international community.”
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace, Anders Hagstrom and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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