Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted people who are opposed to the “lab leak” theory on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic as “self-interested,” continuing a line of accusations that has long been pushed back against by health officials.

In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Paul targeted Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), saying he had approved funding to a lab in Wuhan that was conducting tests on the virus that made it more pathogenic or transmittable, a claim that Fauci has stoutly denied.

“The people saying it didn’t come from a lab are self interested,” Paul said. “Tony Fauci approved and gave the money to the lab in Wuhan, so by approving that, he has and shares some culpability in the origins of this virus.”

Republicans have pounced on the theory long held in conservative circles that the pandemic was started by a leak from a lab in China after an Energy Department report released last month concluded with “low confidence” a laboratory leak was the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It is not the first time that Paul has pointed to Fauci for allegedly funding the lab where a supposed lab leak would have come from. At a 2021 Senate hearing, Paul confronted Fauci with the same theory, to which Fauci said Paul was “entirely and completely incorrect.”

“Sen. Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect,” Fauci said at the 2021 hearing. “The NIH has not ever, and does not now, fund ‘gain of function research’ in the Wuhan Institute.”

The “gain of function research” that Fauci referenced is the type of research that intentionally makes a virus more pathogenic or transmittable in order to study it. While the Energy Department report tepidly concluded that the virus was leaked from a lab, with the FBI also coming to a similar conclusion, neither of them concluded that the virus was created or manipulated in any lab it may have been leaked from. 

Paul’s offensive against Fauci also comes as President Biden this week signed a bill that will declassify information related to the origins of the pandemic, saying he will share as much of the information as possible after screening against the “disclosure of information that would harm national security.”