Photo doesn't show Obama, Fauci, and Melinda Gates at the Wuhan lab in 2015

By: Ishita Goel
August 17 2023

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Photo doesn't show Obama, Fauci, and Melinda Gates at the Wuhan lab in 2015


The Verdict False

A 2014 picture of the former U.S. president and Dr. Anthony Fauci visiting a Maryland NIH research center is being peddled with false claims.

Claim ID aeeef978

What is the claim?
A video carrying a picture of Anthony Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), former U.S. President Barack Obama, and philanthropist Melinda Gates speaking to a woman in a white coat in a room, seemingly a laboratory, is viral on TikTok. 

Source: (TikTok/Altered by Logically Facts)

Users have shared the photo alleging the laboratory is the Wuhan lab in China and that the group visited it in 2015. The image caption read, "Dr Fauci who was with Obama in 2015 in the Wuhan lab where they paid the lab 3.7 million for a bat project? We know that we'll now right? He is of the deep state you get instructions from him. Cut the crap! All to take Trump down."

We found that similar claims are also viral on the platform X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook.

Narrative viral on X, Facebook, and TikTok (Source: X/Facebook/TikTok/Altered by Logically Facts)

We found this claim has been viral since 2020, claiming a larger conspiracy of the three being aware of the COVID-19 pandemic five years before its onset. However, the photo shows Obama, Fauci, and then United States Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, not Gates, at a research centre of the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The narrative has been viral since 2020 on X, TikTok, and Facebook (Source: X/Facebook/TikTok/Altered by Logically Facts)

What are the facts?
Using a reverse image search, we found that the picture is from 2014. We traced the image on the NIH Director's blog dated December 2, 2014, included in the article "President's Visit to NIH Highlights Research on Ebola." The picture's description read, "Dr. Nancy Sullivan of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) discussing Ebola research with President Barack Obama as NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell look on." 

Similarly, we found the picture on the Obama White House website, with the caption also stating that it showed Obama, Fauci, and Burwell engaging with Sullivan. This photo also stated that the visit revolved around Ebola and was dated December 2, 2014. Gates was not present. 

The image is on the NIH directory blog and White House website (Source: Website/The NIH directory blog/The Obama White House)

Why did Obama visit the lab?
According to the NIH blog, Obama visited the lab in Maryland to see the progress that biomedical research was making against the Ebola virus disease. Obama also delivered a speech emphasizing the need for emergency congressional authorization of resources for Ebola research.

Were $3.7 million given to the Wuhan lab?
In 2014, the U.S. NIAID began funding a research project in China run by a U.S.-based non-profit, EcoHealth Alliance. The research was testing bats in southern China to identify different coronaviruses to prevent future outbreaks. The organization received its first grant in 2014, which was renewed in 2019 for another five years under former President Donald Trump. As seen in the table below, EcoHealth received roughly $3.4 million as part of the first grant and $292,161 more as part of the second grant before it was halted in 2020, totaling roughly $3.7 million over this five-year period.

However, EcoHealth spokesman Robert Kessler told that "only $600,000 (from the first grant) was given to the Wuhan Institute of Virology." Therefore, it is incorrect to claim that Obama or Fauci gave the Wuhan lab $3.7 million dollars because the money went largely to EcoHealth. In 2023, the U.S. NIAID reissued a grant of $2.28 million to EcoHealth Alliance for another three years.

Total project funding amount details by U.S. NAID to EcoHealth Alliance (Source: Website/The NIH report)

The verdict
The picture shows Obama and Fauci not in Wuhan but visiting an NIH research center in the U.S. in 2014 to take updates on the progress made regarding the Ebola virus disease. Gates was not present at this visit, and the woman falsely identified as Gates was then-HHS secretary. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.

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