An image circulating on social media claims to show former President Barack Obama, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Melinda Gates at the “Wuhan lab in 2015.” The photo was actually taken at the National Institutes of Health campus in Maryland — and Melinda Gates is not in the picture.
A years-old photo of former President Barack Obama and Dr. Anthony Fauci is spreading on Facebook with a false claim to suggest a connection to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dr. Fauci, Melinda Gates and Barack Obama at the Wuhan Lab in 2015…!!!!” reads text at the top of the viral image.
Below it, a screenshot of a tweet shows a photo of Obama speaking with a scientist as Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stands in the background alongside a woman misidentified as Melinda Gates.
The tweet’s text claims that the picture shows “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!”
But the photo is not from “the Wuhan lab”; the tweet distorts the facts regarding federal funds and the Wuhan Institute of Virology; and the image does not show Gates.
A reverse image search of the picture showed the photo originated on a blog run by the National Institutes of Health. The post shows that the photo was taken in December 2014 — in the U.S.
The picture captured Obama touring the NIH Vaccine Research Center at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.
Obama was speaking with Dr. Nancy Sullivan, of NIAID, about Ebola research. And Fauci was speaking with former Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell — not Melinda Gates.
The tweet’s claim that “they paid the lab 3.7 million for a ‘bat’ project,” meanwhile, is a repeat of a distortion that we’ve addressed multiple times before.
That figure refers to an NIH grant — which actually totaled $3.4 million — awarded to EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S.-based research group that was studying the risk of future emergence of coronaviruses from bats.
The organization first received the grant in 2014 and the grant was renewed in 2019 for another five years, EcoHealth’s spokesman, Robert Kessler, told us previously. EcoHealth received $292,161 in 2019 (part of the total $3.4 million that it received) and NIH terminated the grant in April.
EcoHealth worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology — a collaborator approved by the State Department and NIH — but the lab received only $600,000 of the grant over the years, Kessler said in May.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.
Collins, Francis. “President’s Visit to NIH Highlights Research on Ebola.” NIH Director’s Blog. 2 Dec 2014.
Fichera, Angelo. “Facebook Post Repeats Flawed Claim on Wuhan Lab Funding.” FactCheck.org. 17 Jun 2020.
Kessler, Robert. Spokesman, EcoHealth Alliance. Email to FactCheck.org. 8 May 2020.
National Institutes of Health. “Project Information | 2R01AI110964-06.” Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools. Accessed 15 Jul 2020.
“Regarding NIH Termination of Coronavirus Research Funding.” Press release, EcoHealth Alliance. 28 Apr 2020.
Robertson, Lori. “Trump Spreads Distorted Claim on Wuhan Lab Funding.” FactCheck.org. 15 May 2020.
“Visitor Information.” National Institutes of Health. Accessed 15 Jul 2020.