Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci AFP

Retired U.S. infectious disease top expert Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared before a Republican-led House panel hearing Monday to deny accusations of suppressing the theory that COVID-19 originated from a lab leak in China.

Addressing a U.S. House of Representatives panel publicly for the first time since a lengthy private hearing in January, the former White House chief medical adviser said that he never influenced research regarding the virus's origins, calling the accusations "absolutely false and simply preposterous."

Testifying before the House Oversight and Accountability Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, Dr. Fauci reiterated his belief that the pandemic most likely resulted from animal-to-human transmission, Reuters reported.

"I've also been very, very clear, and said multiple times, that I don't think the concept of there being a lab (leak) is inherently a conspiracy theory," he said, adding, "What is conspiracy is the kind of distortions of that particular subject, like it was a lab leak, and I was parachuted into the CIA like Jason Bourne and told the CIA that they should really not be talking about a lab leak."

Dr. Fauci, who retired in December 2022 after a distinguished 54-year career at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), including 38 years as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), was testifying to clarify his stance amid ongoing investigations.

The subcommittee, which aims to uncover the origins of the virus, has revealed emails suggesting that top NIH officials attempted to circumvent public records by avoiding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The emails show that some officials, including a longtime Fauci adviser, David Morens, deleted correspondence and used private emails to bypass public record laws. Fauci distanced himself from Morens, downplaying their professional relationship and denying any knowledge of Morens' reporting structure or office location.

He also refuted claims that he used private email addresses for government business, despite Morens' admission that he may have sent such emails to Dr. Fauci's personal account.

A heated exchange also occurred during the hearing, when GOP Chairman Brad Wenstrup had to remind Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia to address Fauci respectfully.

Greene refused to use Dr. Fauci's medical title, insisting on referring to him as "Mr. Fauci."

"You're not doctor, you're Mr. Fauci in my few minutes," she said, prompting Wenstrup to intervene and instruct her to address him as "doctor." In response, Greene said, "I'm not addressing him as doctor," leading to criticism from several Democratic lawmakers who slammed her for the disrespectful conduct.

Fauci called Greene's refusal to recognize him as a doctor "an unusual performance," CNN reported.

"So that's the reason why I'm still getting death threats. When you have performances like that unusual performance by Marjorie Taylor Greene in today's hearing, those are the kinds of things that drive up the death threats because there are a segment of the population out there that believe that kind of nonsense," he added.