Former US President Donald Trump and right-wing commentators have slammed infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci after newly released personal emails revealed he was warned that COVID-19 may have been "engineered".
Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, became the face of the United States' COVID-19 response as a member of the White House task force.
In one email sent to Dr Fauci in January 2020, an expert speculated the "unusual features" of the virus could indicate that it had been "engineered".
The email prompted Dr Fauci to say he will reach out by phone, BBC reported.
Further emails show Dr Fauci was sent a news story which claimed the idea the virus was manufactured in a Chinese lab had merit. Dr Fauci's response was entirely redacted.
Buzzfeed reported that in another email, Dr Fauci spoke to a top Chinese health official who expressed concern about him "being attacked by some people".
"Thank you for your kind note. All is well despite some crazy people in this world," Dr Fauci replied.
In a recently released statement obtained by the New York Post, former US President Donald Trump slammed Dr Fauci.
"Now everyone, even the so-called 'enemy,' are beginning to say that President Trump was right about the China Virus coming from the Wuhan Lab," he said. "The correspondence between Dr Fauci and China speaks too loudly for anyone to ignore. China should pay Ten Trillion Dollars to America, and the World, for the death and destruction they have caused!"
Other commentators have also condemned the emails, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson who questioned if Dr Fauci was "under investigation".
"We can only hope they are," he said, the Washington Examiner reported. "They certainly deserve it. At this point, we can't say for sure. We do know that Fauci hasn't simply lied about the origins of COVID, pretending to know things he could not know. He has also lied about vaccines in key ways."
Other right-wing commentators have also slammed Dr Fauci, including Congressman Lance Gooden who tweeted: "The only science Dr Fauci has applied is political science".
Donald Trump Jr also tweeted a poll asking: "Which one of these is Anthony Fauci best at?", with the answers: "Science", "Baseball/Pitching" or "Destroying America".
However, in an appearance on CNN on Thursday, Dr Fauci claimed the email had been "misconstrued".
"I still believe the most likely origin is from an animal species to a human, but I keep an absolutely open mind that if there may be other origins of that, there may be another reason, it could have been a lab leak," Dr Fauci said. "I believe if you look historically, what happens in the animal-human interface, that in fact, the more likelihood is that you're dealing with a jump of species. But I keep an open mind all the time. And that's the reason why I have been public that we should continue to look for the origin."