Philip Lenczycki, DCNF
- Dr. James W. Le Duc, head of the Galveston National Laboratory, warned Chinese researchers about potential congressional investigations in April 2020, according to emails obtained by Judicial Watch.
- Le Duc also sent Shi Zhengli, a scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a “draft summary” he intended to submit to the University of Texas and potential congressional committees, encouraging Shi to edit the document.
- Roughly a year after his warnings, Le Duc accepted a position on the “Biosafety Advisory Committee” at China’s Westlake University, emails show.
The head of a U.S. national laboratory in Texas accepted a position at a Chinese university roughly one year after warning Chinese scientists about potential congressional investigations into COVID-19’s origins, according to emails obtained by Judicial Watch.
In an April 2020 email chain, Dr. James W. Le Duc, director of the Galveston National Laboratory (GNL), warned top science officials in China, including a director at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), about Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s interest in investigating the pandemic’s origins. In April 2021, emails show Le Duc accepted a position on the “Biosafety Advisory Committee” at China’s Westlake University, a private research university with ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“These startling documents show that China had partners here in the United States willing to go to bat for them on the Wuhan lab controversy,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said in a statement.
Judicial Watch obtained Le Duc’s emails through a public records request to the University of Texas Medical Branch. Judicial Watch’s investigation follows years of mystery surrounding COVID-19’s origins.
Early on, the theory that COVID leaked from the WIV was roundly dismissed by government officials and prominent scientists; at one point a New York Times reporter even claimed the Wuhan-origin theory had “racist roots.” However, scientists and experts increasingly consider it the “most likely” origin for the virus, and Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has even accused Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health and other top U.S. scientists of covering-up their own culpability in a possible Wuhan lab leak.
Le Duc first sent his warning to Shi, whose controversial research is at the center of the COVID origins debate, and other Chinese scientists in a series of emails beginning in April 2020.
“I wonder if you would have time for a phone call sometime soon… The email below is relevant,” Le Duc wrote to Shi on April 16, 2020. Le Duc’s email linked to a Forbes report on Sen. Rubio’s interest in investigating COVID’s origins. Le Duc’s email also included a message he’d received from a former commander at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, warning that Rubio was pushing for a Wuhan lab investigation.
“Due to the complicated situation, I don’t think it’s a right time to communicate by the call… What I can tell you is that this virus is not a leaky [sic] from our lab or any other labs,” Shi wrote back to Le Duc on April 18, 2020.
Le Duc replied to Shi on April 19, 2020 with an offer to edit a draft document he intended to submit to University of Texas leadership and congressional committees.
“Make any changes that you would like,” Le Duc told Shi.
“I’m afraid that this discussion will continue for some time regarding where early coronavirus work was being done,” Le Duc wrote to Shi in a separate email dated April 20, 2020. Also included in this email was Dr. Yuan Zhiming, director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, an institution which reports directly to the State Council of the CCP.
A little more than a year later, on April 26, 2021, Ting Yuan, assistant director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at Westlake University in China, offered Le Duc a position as “member of the Biosafety Advisory Committee.” Le Duc accepted the offer.
“It would be my pleasure to join Professor Yigong Shi and my colleagues Professor Pei -Yang Shi and Professor Zhiming Yuan
in this very important activity. I look forward to learning more about the new laboratory and how I might best contribute to your success,” Le Duc wrote in an email later that day.
A spokesman for the University of Texas Medical Branch, where GNL is housed, told The Daily Caller News Foundation the offer to Le Duc was for an honorary advisory role that never came to fruition.
“The GNL has never collaborated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or any other Chinese institutions, on SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 research,” UTMB spokesman Christopher Smith Gonzalez said in an email. “Its former director was approached about an honorary advisorship on biosafety. The advisorship never materialized after the offer was extended, and thus UTMB was not notified of the inconsequential exchange.”
Emails obtained by Judicial Watch also show Le Duc communicated with other high-level Chinese scientists, such as Gao “George” Fu, the director of the CCP-controlled Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Le Duc congratulated Gao his “strong leadership” in a January 16, 2020 email.
“You and your colleagues have prepared China well for this new threat and I think it is important that your efforts are recognized,” Le Duc wrote to Gao.
Le Duc did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
This post was updated with a response from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
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