On November 16, 2023, a recently revealed email from Dr. David Morens, a top deputy to Dr. Anthony Fauci, has sparked controversy as it suggests a deliberate lack of record-keeping on matters related to the origins of COVID-19.
In the email dated June 17, 2021, Morens admitted to retaining very few emails or documents and encouraged sensitive correspondence to be sent to his personal Gmail address. Senator Ron Johnson obtained the email and raised concerns about potential obstruction of oversight efforts.
The email came to light after senators, including Johnson, had written to then-NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, seeking documents on the NIH’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly its connection to a laboratory in China funded by the NIH. In response to the email, Johnson emphasized that Morens’ actions may indicate intentional deletion or destruction of records, raising questions about transparency and federal record-keeping requirements.
Johnson criticized the Department of Health and Human Services, including the NIH, for repeatedly failing to provide requested records. He asserted that Morens’ actions may have directly obstructed oversight efforts and called for accountability. The senator requested all records he had previously asked for and an outline of how federal officials plan to hold Morens accountable.
Dr. Morens, who serves as the senior adviser to the director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, did not respond to inquiries. The email in question was addressed to colleagues associated with the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (AJTMH), including Dr. Peter Daszak, whose EcoHealth Alliance group directed funds from the NIH to the Wuhan laboratory.
In a related development, a prior email from Morens, obtained by a House panel investigating the pandemic, revealed his preference for using Gmail due to constant FOIA requests on his NIH email. The recent email adds to the suspicion, suggesting an effort to avoid public records requirements. Morens disclosed in the past that his Gmail had been hacked, temporarily necessitating communication through his NIH account.
Senator Johnson escalated the matter by referring it to Christine Grimm, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, emphasizing the need for a thorough investigation into Morens’ actions.
The inspector general’s office acknowledged receiving the letter and stated that they are reviewing it to determine the appropriate response. The situation raises concerns about potential violations of federal record-keeping requirements and efforts to limit public access to crucial communications related to the COVID-19 pandemic.