Glenn Greenwald
Politics • Writing • Culture
Debate Debrief with Vivek Ramaswamy
Video Transcript
August 25, 2023
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Watch the full episode here:


Glenn Greenwald: So first of all, thank you for joining us. We know you're deluged after your performance last night and we appreciate your taking the time to talk to us. I want to delve a little bit into some of the topics that got raised, but not very in-depth, which is the nature of the format. First of all, the pundit expectation, the consensus was that everything was going to focus on Governor DeSantis. Everyone was going to go on stage and talk to DeSantis, given his status, apparently, as the obvious alternative to Donald Trump. That most definitely did not happen. He was essentially ignored. Instead, the focus of the attacks almost entirely was on you. I know the obvious answer is it's because ‘I'm rising in the poll,’ ‘I'm considered a threat’ but beyond that, was there something else going on that caused there to be so much hostility and focus on you from the other candidates? 


Vivek Ramaswamy: Yeah, I mean, it's a little bit inside baseball but I think if you look at certainly what our campaign is seeing, when you're looking at actually understanding who the likeliest voters are, who tend to be the most informed, the trends are very sharp in my direction. And so, I think if the other candidates – and one thing you did teach me is that the other candidates are serious about at least trying to win, right? If they weren't serious about actually trying to win, they wouldn't have even bothered. But I think their campaigns understand what our campaign understands, which is that this is effectively a two-horse race between myself and Trump right now, the dynamics of the most informed voter base – and that's where you see a trickle-down effect for everybody else – they're coming in our direction in droves. And so, the headline poll numbers that you'll see are diluted by the fact that most people in this country didn't know who I was four months ago. Right? But of the people who do, so, I'm starting two months ago with a very low name I.D. but seeing our polling against that backdrop, that is striking and largely unseen for a very long time in politics. And so, I think that the other campaign teams have probably smart people working for them, understanding that the DeSantis is not really going to be their obstacle if you roll this to where the puck is going two months from now, and I think they tried to get a head start on that last night, I don't think that it worked out too well for them. 


Glenn Greenwald: Right. So that's the pundit analysis, the kind of horse race analysis to see the validity to that as well. Let me share with you my hypothesis and see whether or not you agree which is there were some very sharp ideological divisions on that stage, typically involving you on the one side and all of these other candidates on the other, because all of these other candidates have a long history in the Republican Party, predating Donald Trump, going back to George Bush, the kind of Reagan economics, Bush-Cheney foreign policy against which Donald Trump successfully ran. You were the only candidate essentially espousing this kind of new form of Republicanism. I sense there was a lot of hostility for real from these other candidates. Maybe it's in part because of resentment that you haven't been around for very long, and they have, but I'm wondering whether it's actually ideological in the sense that they want to wrench the Republican Party back from the new kind of “America first” populist ideology that the Republican voters are now simply insisting on.  


Vivek Ramaswamy: Yeah, I mean, I call the ideology absolutely “America first” nationalist ideology, and this is going to be good for our party because it is a deep ideological division within the Republican Party and it's not even limited to the Republican Party. Like, Glenn, I mean, I'm coming in from the outside. I rarely talk about Republicans and Democrats. 


Glenn Greenwald: Because you haven't been a Republican all that long, as you've talked. 


Vivek Ramaswamy: About. Yeah, I voted Libertarian in the first election I ever voted in. I find partisan distinctions rather boring because I don't think they capture the essence of real social, political, and cultural divides in this country and even across much of the modern West. I think the real divide is between the managerial class and the citizen, between those who are skeptical of the citizenry to determine and self-determine how they sort out questions from climate change to racial injustice. There's one worldview that says the people can't quite be trusted. It has to be a small group of elites, really, in the back of palace halls, that was done for most of old world European history and then the 1776 version of this, the post-1776, the American version said, No, we the People, sought out those differences through free speech and open debate in the public square where every citizen's voice and vote counts equally in a constitutional republic. That's a fundamentally different view. So historically, the Republican and Democratic Party, and the establishment wing of both, which is to say the dominant wing, at least as it relates to funding and most candidates who are propped up by it, are debating within the confines of the first view. We have one set of people that say, “Oh, well, we need higher taxes” and one people say, “We have lower taxes,” but we both agree that the people can't actually be trusted with the most important questions. My view is that the real thing we need to fight for today is the 1776 ideals, the rules of the road in the first place, it’s whatever the answer is, we the People get to determine it – not a federal administrative police state, not an ESG movement of a woke industrial cartel, but in the public and private sector, not multinational international institutions that impose that will on the sovereignty of sovereign nations. No, we the People, the citizens of nations, in the United States of America, the citizens of this nation determine that through our constitutional republic. And so that's what surfaced itself last night on the debate stage of the Republican Party but that even is too small of a description for what's really going on which is far deeper. And there's a version of this that at least should exist and I think does exist within the Democrat Party as well. That's not as much my concern right now but this is deep. It’s deep.


Glenn Greenwald: This conflict did play out in the 2016 election where Bernie Sanders on one side, Hillary Clinton on the other, represented, I think, that schism that you're describing. Bernie ended up getting crushed by a combination of kind of sort of cheating and rigging – that's Elizabeth Warren's words and Donna Brazile's words, not mine – and the Democrats kept hold of the establishment of the party. The Republicans didn't. They lost that with Donald Trump. They thought Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were the bulwarks. And then you look at the fact – and you've been talking about this a lot as well – that for all the kind of intense partisan discourse, we hear, where everyone's a Democrat or a Republican when you turn on cable news, and you go out into the United States, people don't care about that […] 


Vivek Ramaswamy: They really don't. 


Glenn Greenwald: […] Well, lots of people said in 2016, my two favorite candidates are Trump and Bernie. Lots of people who voted for Obama twice, voted for Trump in 2016, which makes no sense from the partisan perspective if you're kind of a pro-partisan… And then you have this huge swath of people who just don't vote, a huge – millions and millions of Americans – not because they're impeded from doing so, but because they just don't think it matters. One of the arguments you're making is, look, I'm not auditioning to be Trump's vice president. I actually think I can make a better inroad into these kinds of voters than President Trump could, who did a good job in 2016 to bring in new voters. What is the reason for that confidence? Is it just generational? Do you have a specific message that resonates? 


Vivek Ramaswamy: Yes. So, it's not just generational. I mean, that's an element of it. I think the fact is that Trump helped air a lot of that pent-up emotion that had been suppressed – and systematically suppressed by both parties – and Bernie tapped into that, too, in some of the ways that you described. This is where I would pick at one thing you said earlier, too: populism isn't really a philosophy. Populism is a response to an emotional current but I think there's a real philosophy underlying it, absolutely coherent on its own terms, a new political ideology […] 


Glenn Greenwald: Where you trust the people to make decisions? 


Vivek Ramaswamy: Yes. And it's not one that I'm inventing. It's one that was born in 1776. And so, I think we live in a 1776 moment. But it's not just that we're going to go out with pitchforks because we're mad. It's because we're going out to revive the modern American revolution, on the principles written out in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the best operating manual for those principles, the U.S. Constitution. And so, I think what I'm aiming to do, and I believe in some ways we are already doing that – we're just getting warmed up – is leading that American revolution, that modern American revolution in our domestic policy. The only war I want to start is the war on the fourth branch of government, which should not exist. I will get in there and actually shut it down, and I think I have a deeper understanding […] 


Glenn Greenwald: By the fourth branch of government, you mean the regulatory […] 


Vivek Ramaswamy: I mean the shadow government. 


Glenn Greenwald: […] essentially out of control, plus the deep state, the part of the government that operates in the dark with no democratic accountability. 


Vivek Ramaswamy: That's right. The people who are never elected, but who wield most of the political power in this country. That is the war I'm starting while ending a lot of the meaningless deflection wars that we either start or fuel abroad, and that's a complete inversion of the way the traditional Republican Party has been doing, it is allowing the cancerous proliferation of this administrative state because it shunts elected representatives from political accountability while creating one more deflection tool of pointless wars from Iraq now to Ukraine. That's what's going on. 


Glenn Greenwald: So, let me ask about two specific examples that I thought expressed most vividly this kind of difference you're describing, the first of which was Ukraine, which was incredibly obvious. Only you on that stage were willing to say emphatically, “No, our money to Ukraine is not in our interest. We have lots of stuff to do here at home, including protecting our border.” DeSantis, as you kind of mocked him for putting his finger in the air, was taking that middle ground of let's have the Europeans pay for it. 

At the beginning of the war, overwhelmingly – and I know you were against it from the beginning – a majority of Americans, a vast majority of Americans were swept up in the propaganda and wanted the US support for that war. Now, you look at polls, overwhelmingly majorities are against that. They want no more money sent there, especially Republican voters. That's an overwhelmingly clear view. We don't want any more of this money being sent. And yet, every single person on that stage beside you, or maybe Ron DeSantis, doesn't care about that, doesn't care what the voters want, doesn't care what people think about where they want their tax money spent. They want to continue to lavish the landscape with all of the money that he wants until the end of that conflict, which won't be four years from now. Why do you think that, for politicians who do pay attention to polls, if they are going to be successful, but are nonetheless so willing to ignore the sentiments of their own voters to continue to insist on this policy that people oppose? 


Vivek Ramaswamy: So that's the easier answer. There's a harder question lurking behind it. The easy answer, I can tell you from experience: donors. The donor class of the Republican Party fundamentally disapproves of the message that I delivered on that stage. And it's the one thing that's holding Ron DeSantis back, right? His campaign is run by his super PAC, which is extremely well-funded and far better funded by this campaign, even for all the checks I've personally written. And so that holds him back. But the rest of the field is completely – as I said in the stage, made a lot of people mad – bought and paid for by the donor class, frankly, some of which is bipartisan. It's the same donor class that swings in the other direction at times, too. The deeper mystery, though, Glenn, and I don't have a great answer on this, is then why the donor class […]


Glenn Greenwald: Right. That’s what I was about to ask. 


Vivek Ramaswamy: […] so attached to this religion. Zelenskyism. “Ukraine-ism.” It's a modern cult in the United States of America. And the tempting answer – and I quipped a little bit, had a little fun with Nikki last night about, you know, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and there's an element of the military-industrial complex – but I believe in truth. And if I'm getting to the truth of the matter, I don't think that's really what's going on, because I know countless donors that I've lost over this issue. So, I can’t imagine that they're thinking about what the value of their stockholding is in some weapons manufacturers. I don't think that's it. It's just something else. 


Glenn Greenwald: Isn’t it that there is embedded in the Republican Party for decades now, there's this ideology about the United States and the role it plays in the world for all sorts of selfish reasons… 


Vivek Ramaswamy: It’s embedded in both Parties. Joe Biden and Liz Cheney! What’s the difference? 


Glenn Greenwald: […] There's a lot more support to the Democratic Party or a lot less opposition in the Democratic Party to the war in Ukraine than in the Republican Party, which I think is interesting. They want that war going on at least as much as the Republican establishment, if not more so. I just wondering, though, whether there's this kind of genuine conviction, which sounds naive when you're talking about Washington – people with actual convictions – that this ideology has been embedded for decades, going back to the Cold War, the War on Terror, that the way we maintain our dominance in the world is through foreign military operations. 


Vivek Ramaswamy: So, I think I have good I think I have a good finger on the pulse of what's going on here. I don't think they have convictions. I think that these politicians on the stage yesterday are puppets. I'm deeply convinced of that. I mean, you interact with people, they're good people, they're fine, but they're vessels, right? Listless vessels, if we may use the power of super PACs. 

I think that some of those people, though, in that donor establishment, ironically, are people who do have convictions in what that view of American hegemony should be, some of which is tied to self-interest, but not all. It's this attachment to a sense of self-confidence that's derived from superiority over the other. And I think that once you've earned a certain amount of money, moral superiority then becomes more important than financial superiority. The marginal return of the arguing piece of paper isn't worth as much but the psychological security of knowing that you are better than your fellow man is really what I think drives – it's the sick psychology […] 


Glenn Greenwald: Adam Smith wrote about that in “The Wealth of Nations.” The idea that there's this sort of […]


Vivek Ramaswamy: He did. Good point.


Glenn Greenwald: […] a sense of strength and purpose that comes from reading about the conquest of your foreign armies, especially, if you watch from a safe distance. Even if that means a little higher taxes. 


Vivek Ramaswamy: Especially if you are insulated from the consequence as well. 


Glenn Greenwald: Exactly. That’s the key.


Vivek Ramaswamy: It's not your kid that goes to fight, right?


Glenn Greenwald: It's neither you nor your family that's fighting. It's other people's families who are fighting […] 


Vivek Ramaswamy: That’s a great point of Adam Smith. 


Glenn Greenwald: It's really – I'll show you. If you haven't seen it, I'll show you the passage it describes […] 


Vivek Ramaswamy: It sounds familiar. It’s been years since I've read it... 


Glenn Greenwald: Well, yeah, it's from “The Wealth of Nations.”

Just two more questions, out of respect for your time. One is on the issue of China. Last night you described the Russia and China alliance as the greatest military threat we face. You said the only war you want to start is against this fourth branch of government, the deep state, the regulatory state, and yet, that kind of rhetoric leads people to wonder whether your opposition involving ourselves in the war in Ukraine is really about a desire instead to focus that kind of military confrontation with China, to start a new Cold War with China. What is your view of the U.S. relationship with China going forward? 


Vivek Ramaswamy: You know, look at what I've said in the recent weeks, which also was the source of some jabs that some other candidates were giving me for my views there, I want to pull Russia apart from China. I do think that China is a real threat to the United States. 


Glenn Greenwald: And in what sense are they a real threat? 


Vivek Ramaswamy: Well, I think that they want to hold an economic gun over our head and ultimately exert leverage to advance geopolitical goals using the economy to do it. And so, I think the right answer is that there are a few different things. One is to declare economic independence from China. I think that we cannot live in a world in which we're dependent on an adversary for our modern way of life. We can talk about the role of India or Australia or other nations, bilateral trade relationships with other countries. I don't like the multilateral stuff because it comes with a lot of baggage and garbage about climate change but strong bilateral relationships from Japan to South Korea to India can play a role in this. Pulling Russia out of its military alliance with China by reopening relations with Russia. If we reopen economic relations with Russia. Russia doesn't have to rely economically on China. Freeze the current lines of control Korean war-style armistice agreement and end the war in Ukraine, permanent commitment for NATO not to admit Ukraine – it's a reverse maneuver of what Nixon did in 1972. He pulled Mao out of Brezhnev's little brother's arm... Well, Putin is like the new Mao. Let's pull him out of Xi Jinping's class and move from a bilateral international order today that favors China to a trilateral one where none of the three major superpowers, nuclear superpowers, are aligned. I think that's a good thing. As it relates to Taiwan, I favor moving from strategic ambiguity to strategic clarity. Right now, the U.S. just does depend on Taiwan for semiconductors. Our entire modern way of life, the camera that's recording this interview to that laptop on your lap […] 


Glenn Greenwald: Which is the excuse as to why we need to defend Taiwan, but not Ukraine. So, the question then becomes […] 


Vivek Ramaswamy: Well, no, I want to unroll this forward actually.


Glenn Greenwald: Let's get away from dependence on superconductors and then the question becomes does that change our relationship with China vis a vis Taiwan and in general? 


Vivek Ramaswamy: Yes, it does once we achieve semiconductor independence. So I'm going to lead us by the end of our first term to ensure that we have semiconductor independence in this country. And what I've said is I want to be very clear that there are a couple of reasons why China might want to go for Taiwan. But if one of them is to lord over the United States holding hostage our modern way of life, I'm not okay with that. And we will defend Taiwan. This does a couple of things. One is it makes Xi Jinping have to be a fool to invade Taiwan before we do have semiconductor independence. If he wants to fulfill the nationalistic goal from 1949 in Chiang Kai‐shek and Mao Zedong, that's a separate discussion. That's a separate discussion. But as it relates to lording over and squatting on the semiconductor supply chain, no, the answer is no. So, we'll pull Russia out of their hands. We’ll do a partnership with India, control of the Malacca Strait. We're trying to get this Middle Eastern oil supply. And then after 2028, the end of my first term, when I will lead us to semiconductor independence, our posture changes. And I think that being honest about that, as a U.S. president, to say that I'm advancing U.S. interests, that is credible. People can actually – not only people at home but even other actors on the global stage – take credible signals for that because I expect them to act in their self-interest just as they can expect me representing the United States to act in our self-interest. That is the single most effective way of deterring China from going after Taiwan while avoiding war, especially during the period that we literally depend on Taiwan for our modern way of life. And this also puts Taiwan on notice. I mean, this is a nation that's spending one point something percent of its GDP on military. 


Glenn Greenwald: Because everyone knows it has the U.S. behind it, ready to defend it…


Vivek Ramaswamy: It should be at – 5% of Taiwan's GDP should be spent on its own military defense if that's what they want. They have an election in 2024. The KMT has different view Tsai Ing-wen. That's their nation's issue, to sort out democratically in terms of where they are. But this puts them on notice. Taiwan would have to be a fool not to increase its military spending as a percentage of GDP; Xi Jinping would have to be a fool to go for Taiwan before we have semiconductor independence in this country, if we move to strategic clarity. 

And then the traditional establishment came like a ton of bricks on me for this view. Oh, I mean, Nikki Haley referenced it last night, but the funniest part about this, Glenn, though, is that if we had more time in the debate I would have thrown it back in their face – and maybe I'll do it, the next debate – is this is under a status quo when the U.S. technically is espousing still the One China policy that would still drive Donald Trump for picking up a phone call from the Taiwanese president, in 2015, to congratulate him, that that broke diplomatic protocol and we embrace the One China policy. We can't say what we'll do in Taiwan, if I, as said I will defend Taiwan until we achieve semiconductor independence but as the implication that the posture could change after [...] 


Glenn Greenwald: Which is even kind of more hard line. From that perspective […]


Vivek Ramaswamy: But it's neither more nor less hard line. But it's laughable that they will point to that as being a softy position when all I'm saying is let's be honest and let's be clear, this is how nations can actually deal with one another diplomatically, if they can actually trust one another credibly that you're actually who would have ever thought following your self-interest. And that is how you avoid wars that are against the interests of the United States and if I may say it, against the interests of other nations as well. 


Glenn Greenwald: Well, last question. I did think it was notable that people like Nikki Haley like to tout the fact that they have foreign policy experience when U.S. foreign policy over the last at least a year is a disaster for the world. I'd rather pick somebody randomly out of the phone book to run it. 


Vivek Ramaswamy: It’s the worst. I’d have a monkey running it.


Glenn Greenwald: Exactly. And then, any of those people who are so proud of the role they played in all of these disasters. Last question. One of the things your campaign has done that is unique and you referenced earlier, I just want to delve into it a little bit more deeply is the last question, which is you've made a point of visiting not Kiev, but parts of the United States that typically the Republican Party ignores. There's a lot of people there who don't vote, who have a tradition of voting for Democrats, not because they're excited about the Democratic Party, quite the contrary, but they think the Republican Party is against their interest in ways that are kind of bigoted or that they've been told is very hostile. And one of the arguments you're making is I want to go into those places with a message that will liberate them either from not voting or from the Democratic Party. What is that message that you have to tell these people in African American communities, in lower-income communities, that the Republican Party and voting for the Republican Party will actually make a material difference in their lives? 


Vivek Ramaswamy: The America First movement stands for all Americans. And so, no, I haven't talked to Zelenskyy, but I did pick up the phone and call the likes of Gregory and Janet Ards two small business owners in Hawaii who tragically lost their two small businesses in their family but had a third that was still able to provide the water supply to the rest of Maui. I think that this is a moment when people from the South Side Chicago to Kensington, to Hawaii, to Maui, to Ohio, to Iowa, to New Hampshire can unite around the idea that we have a government that sells out our own interests to advance some other multilateral interests internationally. And we can unite around the fact that, yes, we do believe that the southern border needs to be sealed, that we do believe that the money that we spend, the taxpayer resources that we spend, should be spent to fund U.S. interests and not pay the salary headcount of Ukrainian government officials instead. And I think I'm already seeing that, Glenn, as I'm traveling this country, that this is not about Republicans and Democrats. I think it's a 1776 moment where the question is, do you share the basic rules of the road in common – meritocracy, the pursuit of excellence, free speech, something that is a controversial idea that […]


Glenn Greenwald: That didn’t come up last night that this has been a centerpiece of your campaign obviously.


Vivek Ramaswamy: Centerpiece. Absolutely. Self-Governance over aristocracy. Do we believe in three branches of government? Do we believe in the Constitution or do we believe in the other thing that we're living in today, where it's a quasi-technocratic monarchy in three-letter agencies in Washington, D.C. And I think the truth of the matter is easily 80% of this country agrees on the basic rules of the road. Maybe we will disagree on whether corporate tax rates should be high or low, but this debt. 


Glenn Greenwald: Limit abortion or things like that. 


Vivek Ramaswamy: Yeah, but these are, in the scheme of things, actually, details […]


Glenn Greenwald: Right. 


Vivek Ramaswamy: […] compared to the basic rules of the road. And I say 80 - 20, half of the 20 is people younger than me who never even learned those ideals in the first place, we'll teach them and bring them along too. This is the stuff of a landslide election. The single most unifying thing that a leader could deliver for this country is a moral mandate, in 2024, to revive those basic 1776 principles. And honest to God, I think I'm the only person in this race in either party who can actually do it. And as much as a lot of my policies, certainly on foreign policy on the border, otherwise do overlap heavily with that of Donald Trump – and I said on the stage last night, I do think he was an excellent president – I think this can't be a 50.1 election. We're skating on thin ice as a country. This can't be the Monday after Election Day; they slowly trot out who won the election. No. This has to be a decisive victory: bring in young people, old people, black, white, suburban, rural, urban. Doesn't matter. We're all Americans. And the America First movement puts all Americans first. And so, yeah, Does that help to be a member of a different generation? Absolutely, it does. But it's not just a generational argument. It's a vision of what actually matters in this country, what the actual divide is. It's not between Republicans and Democrats. It's the everyday citizen. The great uprising saying, “Hell, no” to the great reset and the managerial class. That's what this is about. 


Glenn Greenwald: So, we were covering your campaign when you were 8.2% because I had a feeling that this message was going to start to resonate. It incredibly is now. So, we're going to keep covering it as I think you're going to continue to rise in the polls, especially after last night. So, congratulations on a great debate. Thanks for joining us. 


Vivek Ramaswamy: Thanks, Glenn. Good to see you. 

Glenn Greenwald:
Good to see you as well.

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How NIAID, with key help from the Washington Post, turned a true story into a “right-wing conspiracy theory”

By Leighton Woodhouse

On the morning of October 25, 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci dashed off an email to eight of his colleagues, asking them to look into an experiment conducted in Tunisia in 2019. It was urgent. “I want this done right away,” he wrote, “since we are getting bombarded by protests.”

The experiment Fauci was referring to was the one that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene asked him about this week in a heated Congressional hearing. Holding up a photograph on poster board of two beagles with their heads locked into mesh cages, she said, “As director of the NIH, you did sign off on these so-called ‘scientific experiments,’ and as a dog lover, I want to tell you this is disgusting, and evil.”



Greene is to liberals what Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is to conservatives: an easy target for partisans to mock. Her questioning of Fauci predictably inspired the usual derision. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, referring to Greene as “the consistent frontrunner for stupidest member of the House of Representatives in history,” sneered, “No one knew what she was talking about.”

But in fact, Fauci knew exactly what Greene was talking about. Three years ago, the experiment in question was at the center of an entire crisis communications response within NIAID (the institute within NIH run by Dr. Fauci). Fauci claimed that it had provoked so many angry calls that his assistant had to stop answering the phone for two weeks. The day before Fauci sent his email about being “bombarded by protests,” one of his colleagues had advised him, “It might be wise to hold off on TV until we have a handle on this.” The story had become a full-blown publicity crisis for Fauci and NIAID — until the Washington Post came to his rescue, turning a legitimate news story into “right-wing disinformation,” based on flimsy evidence that was literally concocted by Fauci’s team.

In 2019, under the auspices of a microbiologist at the University of Ohio, researchers in Tunisia placed the heads of sedated beagles in mesh bags filled with starved sand flies. This was the image Rep. Greene had held up at this week’s hearing. Later, the beagles were placed in outdoor cages for nine consecutive nights, in an area dense with sand flies infected with a parasite that carries the disease with which the researchers were trying to infect the dogs.

In his paper, the Ohio microbiologist, Abhay Satoskar, along with his research partner, acknowledged funding from NIAID, which added up to about $80,000, alongside the grant number. The grant application read:

“Dogs will be exposed to sand fly bites each night throughout the sand fly season to ensure transmission…Dogs will be anesthetized…and for 2 hours will be placed in a cage containing between 15 and 30 females…”

The description fits the experiments in Tunisia perfectly.

In August of 2021, White Coat Waste Project, a non-profit group that advocates against federal funding of animal experimentation, exposed NIAID’s support for the experiment in a blog post. In October, based on White Coat Waste’s revelations, a bipartisan group of Congressional representatives released a letter expressing concern about cruel NIAID-funded experiments on dogs, drawing particular attention to the fact that some of the dogs had had their vocal cords severed to keep them from barking and howling in pain and distress. The story generated a maelstrom online, leading to the angry phone calls Fauci claimed to have received.  “#ArrestFauci” trended on Twitter.

NIAID staff went into damage control mode. Within hours of Fauci asking his staff to look into the experiment, Satoskar emailed NIAID, following up on a phone call. Satoskar now claimed that the acknowledgment of NIH funding was a mistake. “This grant was mistakenly cited as a funding source in the paper,” he wrote.

Later, NIAID would claim that it only funded an experiment that involved vaccinating the dogs against Leishmaniasis, the disease carried by the parasites in the sand flies. Leishmaniasis is the disease with which Satoskar infected his subject beagles in Tunisia.

There is no way to know what was said on the phone call with Satoskar, but released emails show that this is exactly what NIAID wanted to hear. “Will you forward this to Dr. Fauci or let me know if I should directly forward to him?”, the recipient of the email at NIAID wrote to a colleague (the names in the emails, which were obtained by a FOIA request from White Coat Waste Project, are redacted).

Email obtained by a FOIA request from White Coat Waste Project.Email obtained by a FOIA request from White Coat Waste Project.

Satoskar then hurried to delink the paper from NIAID funding. Less than ten minutes after sending his email to NIAID, Satoskar emailed Shaden Kamhawi, editor of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the journal that had published the paper on the experiment. “We would like to request correction of this error,” Satoskar wrote.

He might as well have been asking himself. Kamhawi is a colleague of Satoskar. She is an expert on precisely the subject that Satoskar was studying. “Dr. Kamhawi is a world expert on phlebotomine sand flies,” her curriculum vitae reads, “vectors of the neglected tropical disease leishmaniasis.” Like Satoskar, Kamhawi has conducted research in which she used sand flies to infect beagles with the disease. She has even co-published with him. Indeed, Kamhawi’s own research has been the subject of White Coat Waste Project exposé. On top of that, she is an employee of NIAID: meaning that Anthony Fauci is her boss.

Kamhawi was aware of at least the last of these potential conflicts of interest. “BTW,” she emailed her colleagues at PLOS NTD, “as I am an NIAID employee, “I am not sure if there is a COI [Conflict of Interest] here so please let me know.”

It’s unclear whether the journal took that conflict seriously. In any case, the correction went forward. The journal now read:

“There are errors in the Funding statement. The correct Funding statement is as follows: the authors received no specific funding for this work. The US National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust did not provide any funding for this research and any such claim was made in error.”

This was the exonerating evidence that went out to reporters. On October 27th, a NIAID employee wrote to colleagues that “we can at least share with reporters that the journal has made the correction.” Another NIAID staffer emailed colleagues for help fielding a query from an Associated Press “fact checker,” who asked how NIAID could be sure that their funds weren’t used for the Tunisian beagle experiment. “Our evidence is simply the statement of the PI [Principal Investigator], Dr. Satoskar,” came the reply.

In fact, NIAID had no way to be certain that its funds were not used on the Tunisia experiment. Michael Fenton, Director of NIAID’s Division of Extramural Activities, wrote in an email, “It seems to me that the only way to prove that the grant funds weren’t used for other projects is to do an audit of those grant expenditures and invoices. This would not be something that could be done quickly.”  

The next day, NIAID was still putting out fires. “We are still getting clobbered on this,” one wrote in an email. But three days before, NIAID had scored a huge coup: On October 25, the same day Fauci wrote his “bombarded by protests” note, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote a column facetiously entitled, “Why is Anthony Fauci trying to kill my puppy?” The article maligned the story as a product of “the right wing disinformation machine and its crusade against Fauci,” and cited the correction in PLOS NTD as evidence that it was all just an innocent mistake.

In an email to a NIAID employee the next day, Milbank offered further assistance. He wrote, “I might do a follow-up column on the reaction, and the imperviousness to facts. Do you have any more info that could further prove that you didn't fund the Tunisia study involving feeding the anesthetized dogs to sand flies?” Forwarding Milbank’s story to colleagues, the NIAID staffer wrote approvingly, “Dana is being extremely helpful.”

From Milbank’s story came a cascade of “fact checks”: from Politifact, Snopes,, MediaMatters, Mic, and USA Today. Then came a big story in the Washington Post about the “viral and false claim” that NIAID had funded the Tunisia experiment. The reporters who wrote the story had evidently already reached their conclusion before they began reporting on it. Their email to Satoskar and others asking for comment opened, “I am working on a story about a massive disinformation campaign that is being waged against Anthony Fauci.”

The media re-framing of the story had its intended effect. Three years later, following Marjorie Taylor Greene’s questioning, reporters are once again citing PLOS NTD’s correction as the definitive debunking of the beagle experiment story. The Washington Post effectively banished it from mainstream public debate, though today, the paper published a fact check that contradicts much of the Post’s previous reporting.

After the story came out, Beth Reinhard, one of the reporters on the Post story, emailed Satoskar the link. “Thanks Beth. This is a great article clearing up all misinformation and falsehood,” he wrote.

“Thanks!” she replied.



Leighton Woodhouse is freelance journalist and a documentary filmmaker currently based in Oakland, California. You can support his work at

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AIPAC's Singular Ability to Remove and Influence Members of Congress; Senator Rand Paul On More COVID Cover-Ups; PLUS: Media Denies Biden's Decline
Video Transcript

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Good evening. It's Thursday, June 20. 

Tonight: AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is easily one of the most powerful, feared, and effective lobbying groups in Washington, if not the single most feared. That assertion is so well documented by now that it barely requires debate. But their power lies not only, or even primarily, in their extraordinary ability to foster close to unanimous votes in Congress for every pro-Israel resolution or bill they wish to see implemented. That is extraordinary enough. But even more amazing is their unmatched ability – and it is unmatched – to simply remove incumbent members of the U.S. Congress who are, in their eyes, insufficiently supportive of and dedicated to the foreign government of Israel. 

A perfect example illustrating how this works is the current primary challenge being launched against the two-term Democratic congressman and former middle school principal, Jamaal Bowman, who represents New York's 16th congressional district. Bowman currently faces an extraordinarily well-financed primary challenger from George Latimer, the corruption-plagued county executive in Westchester Country who, polls now show, has built a substantial lead over Bowman. And it's not hard to understand why. It's not because George Latimer is some beloved figure. It's because his campaign is being fueled by a massive amount of money that comes almost entirely from out-of-the-district funding, the vast majority of which comes from a pro-Israel PAC directed and funded by AIPAC. It's an extraordinary, even unprecedented amount that is being spent on this single primary challenge to a congressional House incumbent: $20 million and counting. 

The reason Bowman faces such a powerfully funded primary challenge is simple and obvious. He sometimes criticizes Israel and has been particularly critical of their eight-month U.S.-funded war that has destroyed much of Gaza. Voters in the district, who are being drowned in anti-Bowman ads on radio, TV, online, everywhere, have little idea that the reason for this overwhelmingly funded challenge to their congressman is due to pro-Israel groups, and that's because the ads that run against him rarely, if ever, even mention the issue of Israel, instead pretending that they are angry with Bowman for his failure to be a good Democrat, that he's not sufficiently loyal to President Biden and his agenda. 

This has been a long-standing and extremely effective tactic for punishing and even removing members of Congress for failure to support Israel with unquestioning praise. In an era where bipartisan systems ensure that congressional incumbents have even a higher reelection rate than Soviet-era members of the Russian legislature, AIPAC appears, as we will show you, to have become the one real threat to the ability of Congress members to win reelection, or even to secure their own party's nomination. 

Then: we welcome back to System Update, the three-term Republican Senator from Kentucky and medical doctor, Rand Paul. Senator Paul has been relentlessly attempting to expose the truth about what happened, specifically in the beginning months of the Covid pandemic, when Doctor Fauci and his associates falsely claimed to the world that they had confirmed that Covid originated from nature and not from a lab leak in Wuhan. That false claim of certainty ended up as intended, shaping discourse about that pandemic around the globe for the next two years and also as intended, caused a full-scale online censorship ban of any questioning or doubts about the official story of Covid's origins. Just as importantly, Dr. Paul has been attempting to demonstrate that Fauci deliberately concealed his attempts to fund what is called gain-of-function research, meaning scientific attempts in labs to manipulate viruses and other pathogens to become even more contagious or more deadly to humans, something that, if leaked, could cause a pandemic of the type that we saw with Covid. 

But now, Senator Paul is also warning about what appears to be bipartisan efforts to approve or defund the exact kind of dangerous gain-of-function research that very likely caused the worldwide Covid pandemic in the first place. I am genuinely amazed at how little interest there seems to be in investigating and finding the truth about what is easily one of the most consequential events in our lifetime, the Covid pandemic. Dr. Paul is one of the few in Washington still demanding just basic accountability and we believe that that work is extremely important and deserves as much journalistic attention as we can possibly give to it. So, we'll speak to him in just a little bit. 

And then finally: videos of Joe Biden frequently surface that confirm what Americans already know about him, as polling data demonstrates, namely, that he is aging in a way that has left him with serious cognitive impairment to the point that he sometimes barely knows where he is or what he is saying. The evidence proving that is overwhelming, from reporting to first-hand accounts to simply comparing his conduct now to what it was even five years ago. And it's worth remembering that the very first-time concerns about Biden's cognitive capabilities were expressed not by Republicans or even Bernie Sanders supporters in the 2020 cycle, it was by DNC operatives and DNC media allies, in 2019, who were very concerned that Biden would get the nomination simply because he was the most well-known candidate. They continuously warned that this was not the same Joe Biden, that he was likely not capable of sustaining the full rigors of the campaign. Once Biden got the nomination, those very same people turned around and said it was immoral to raise questions about Biden's cognitive capabilities, even though they were the ones who first cast doubt on it in the first place. 

Nonetheless, despite all that evidence, most of the U.S. corporate media, as we know, will say or do anything to ensure Trump's defeat, even if that means outright lying. They already proved that in 2016, when they spread virtually every day all sorts of false collusion conspiracy theories about Trump and the Trump campaign and Russia, and then did so again in 2021. They claimed that incriminating reporting about Biden and his family in Ukraine and China was the byproduct of what they called fake documents, meaning Russian disinformation. Now, with that same goal in mind, they insist that the video showing Biden's cognitive decline and incapacitation is somehow fake, as they hope to convince Americans to trust the media’s partisan claims, more than they trust their own eyes and their own judgment. We will examine the latest self-humiliation of the media in pursuit of manipulating another presidential election by trying to disseminate claims that are so recognizably false. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now. 

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The Pentagon's Secret Disinfo Campaign Discrediting China's COVID Vaccine Unveiled; France's Unprecedented Elections, China, Ukraine, and More with Commentator Arnaud Bertrand
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Podcast: Apple - Spotify 

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Good evening. It's Wednesday, June 19.

Tonight: the biggest media story by far in U.S. politics in 2016 was focused on Russia. Not only did they falsely insist that the Trump campaign had colluded with Moscow to hack the email accounts of the DNC and of John Podesta, but even more media indignation was focused on the fact that Russia had engaged in unprecedented and incomparably evil interference with our sacred democracy by using a few Twitter bots and Facebook pages to disseminate what our media called “disinformation.” What made this reaction so mystifying was the obvious belief that the United States and other freedom-loving democracies would never, ever engage in that kind of treachery. Instead, this kind of interference and trickery was the sole provenance of the Kremlin under Vladimir Putin. 

Anyone who knows even the most minimal amount of American history should have instantly scoffed at that claim. It is beyond any reasonable doubt that the U.S. has “interfered” in the internal affairs of countless other countries, including Russia, for decades, and the U.S. has done so with methods that included clandestine disinformation campaigns as well as tactics a bit more extreme and far worse than a few online bots. It was just embarrassing to watch so many corporate media employees express what appears to be earnest rage that Russia would do such a thing. 

Late last week, Reuters published a genuinely good and important piece of investigative journalism – credit where due – the type of journalism that we rarely see anymore. Rather than bravely denouncing the bad acts of America's enemies on the other side of the world, Reuters actually revealed a secret and morally repugnant online disinformation campaign conducted in secret by the Pentagon. That online campaign was designed to spread fears, doubts and resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine that China was offering impoverished countries and impoverished people for free. That was being done at the very same time that the U.S. government was arguing that anyone spreading vaccine skepticism and encouraging vaccine hesitancy was guilty of killing large numbers of people. Indeed, they not only mandated that Americans take the vaccine they were given upon threat of losing their jobs or their freedom of movement, but the government coerced Big Tech outlets to censor and ban anyone expressing doubts about the vaccine's efficacy or its safety, all at the very same time that the same U.S. government was using an army of online bots and fake social media accounts to spread vaccine doubt in the poorest countries, the poorest populations of the world. 

It is worth reviewing these revelations and then putting them in the historical context of American behavior, as well as the claims the government was making about how nobody about Russia does such a thing, as well as the moral calculations that drove this clandestine campaign against China's COVID-19 vaccine. It really is remarkable when one delves into the details of what the U.S. government did here, and therefore, that is exactly what we will do. 

Then: as we reported two weeks ago, with the help of a professor who was a specialist in the EU, the European-wide elections for the EU Parliament provided major shocks and surprises for EU elites everywhere. Many countries saw a decisive rejection of pro-establishment parties, replaced by a mass surge of support for what is called far-right populist parties. That happened in Germany, Holland and elsewhere but especially in France. In response to the devastating defeat of his party at the hands of Marine Le Pen, French President Emmanuel Macron shocked even his own allies by dissolving the French parliament and calling for snap elections, a move that could very well result in the first-ever French prime minister from Le Pen's party. 

All of this has caused extreme chaos in EU politics, especially in French politics. Many of the trends that drove the EU election are, of course, visible and clearly present – if not dominant – in modern-day American politics as well. So, to help us sort out everything happening there, we will speak to the French political analyst and commentator Arnaud Bertrand. While he is French by origin, Bertrand has lived for quite some time in China. He is an expert in Sinology, which is a study of all things Chinese, and he has, in my view, been one of the most informed, enlightened analysts on the Washington-Beijing relationship, along with both wars that the U.S. is currently funding, the one in Ukraine and the one in Gaza. We are excited to talk to him and I think you will enjoy hearing from him as well. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now. 

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