FILE - Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures during a COVID-19 news conference Monday, April 27, 2020, at the Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Fla.

(The Center Square) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and Dr. Anthony Fauci for alleged mismanagement and deceit.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion on Florida’s stressed property insurance market in Sarasota, DeSantis also called for a review of the federal government’s COVID-19 response and a Congressional investigation into the virus’s origins.

“We need to do better next time,” he said. “We got to recognize some of the problems that occurred, and If we don’t, people are not going to have confidence in listening to a lot of the folks.”

The governor joined with a chorus of GOP lawmakers calling for a probe of “gain-of-function” funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research conducted by China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, a Central China city of about 11 million people, in late 2019.

Gain-of-function is research that results in the gain of a function for a virus.

“We should not be sending money to China to do this gain-of-function research,” DeSantis said. “This is just something that is creating super viruses in some lab that’s very much involved with the Chinese military and intelligence. Why would you be doing that? It makes no sense, and obviously, the results have been absolutely terrible.”

Public health agencies like the U.S. CDC and the global World Health Organization mismanaged the response repeatedly and Americans have confidence in new research produced by the CDC, he said.

“People literally will debunk it like an hour later after just reading it. And that’s not something that inspires very much confidence for the American people,” DeSantis said.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, conspired with bureaucrats and “Big Tech” to downplay “overwhelming evidence” that the virus emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, he said.

“Why was there such a movement to squelch any inquiry about this leaking from the lab in Wuhan?” DeSantis asked.

The Washington Post and Buzzfeed recently released thousands of Fauci’s emails, including exchanges with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is among GOP lawmakers asserting the emails show Fauci influenced Facebook's decision to ban users from questioning the origins of COVID-19, which Fauci denies.

At issue is whether NIH funded research on bat coronaviruses that could have caused a pathogen to become more infectious to humans, and if COVID-19 transferred naturally from bats to humans or is lab-enhanced.

In 2014, NIH awarded U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance a grant to study risks of future emergences of coronaviruses from bats. EcoHealth received $3.7 million over six years and distributed nearly $600,000 to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

In a May 11 U.S. Senate hearing, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said “government authorities, self-interested in continuing gain-of-function research say there’s nothing to see here” and that the Biden administration and Fauci are resisting calls to probe the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which he accused of “juicing up super-viruses.”

The NIH issued a statement on misinformation about the allegations in which it said after the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Asia and the 2012 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in Saudi Arabia, it “supported grants to learn more about viruses lurking in bats and other mammals that have the potential to spill over to humans and cause widespread disease.”

“However,” the statement continues, “neither NIH nor NIAID have ever approved any grant that would have supported ‘gain-of-function’ research on coronaviruses that would have increased their transmissibility or lethality for humans.”

Fauci’s recently released emails with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have some conservatives claiming he knew the virus’s origins last year.

Paul and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are among lawmakers calling for an investigation into NIH’s Wuhan grants and assert Fauci influenced Facebook's decision to ban users from questioning the origins of COVID-19.

DeSantis called Fauci’s emails are “very, very problematic” and that the control ‘Big Tech’ exerted “to squelch any inquiry” is among reasons he recently signed into law a Florida bill penalizing social media companies for “censoring” or “de-platforming” users for espousing conservative views.

DeSantis also noted that, on Monday, he signed into law two bills primarily directed at China that toughen penalties for stealing trade secrets and impose greater disclosure requirements on sources of foreign grants for university, medical and high-tech researchers.

Florida in April sued the CDC contending its order is “unlawful,” outdated and has left the state’s $8.1 billion cruise industry pier-side last March. U.S. Middle District of Florida Judge Steven Merryday is expected to issue a ruling in the suit soon.