"By the way, Sarah, there’s a package from Bill that arrived for you in the living room.”
Gwen and Sarah had just finished dinner, so Sarah quickly gets up, remembering what she had asked Bill to send her. Sure enough, there was a DVD inside.
“Gwen, this is the program about Dr. Gallo I told you about. Can you watch?”
“If you don’t mind, let’s do the dishes first, ‘cuz I imagine we’ll get into some pretty good discussions afterwards.”
When they were both seated on the sofa with full glasses of wine, Sarah starts to explain the background.
“This was a special news program on GNN. The anchorwoman is Laura Begley, and the chief medical correspondent is Dr. Frank Keating.”
“I know them both. We get GNN here too, you know – even in South Carolina!”
They both laugh. “Sorry. Of course you do. Well, this was done sometime during the AIDS trial… I can’t remember exactly when.” She pushes the Play button on the remote.
Anchorwoman Laura Begley is on camera, summarizing the AIDS trial and the events of the last week.
“...which brings us up to the present, and it was another day of unexpected testimony, to put it mildly. With us again is Dr. Frank Keating, chief health correspondent for GNN. Dr. Keating, I guess we shouldn't be surprised any more with what's coming out in this trial.”
Keating and Laura are both standing, and in between them is a giant green screen where images will soon appear. Right now, it’s just the GNN logo and the special graphics developed for the AIDS Trial.
“One of the most interesting developments,” Keating agrees, “is that Messick has made the personality of Dr. Robert Gallo a central issue in this trial.”
Sarah pauses the DVD. “I forgot to tell you that Benjamin Messick was the plaintiff’s attorney.” She presses Play again and Keating continues.
“So we decided we'd see what we could find out about Dr. Gallo, his record and his life.”
Keating now turns away from Laura and faces the camera directly, which then tightens on Keating, and Laura disappears from the screen.
“What we discovered was, well, as shocking as the rest of the trial has been, to say the least...”
As Keating talks, still shots, video clips, a birth certificate, and copies of newspaper headlines and magazine articles fill the green screen behind him.
“Robert Gallo was born in 1937 in Waterbury, Connecticut. His father was apparently a workaholic who owned a successful company. At the age of 11, Gallo's younger sister, Judith, was stricken with leukemia. Thirty years later, Dr. Gallo would be dedicating his life to finding a virus that caused this deadly cancer.”
There’s a picture of Gallo and Judith together, probably taken sometime in the mid-40’s, looking like any normal brother and sister.
“But, prior to her death, several other things happened as a result of Judith’s illness that would shape Robert Gallo's future. He would spend weeks living with relatives while his parents traveled to various hospitals with his sister. Then, after Judith's death, his father was obsessed with visiting her grave, walking from room to room in their house, holding and kissing her pictures, and forbidding any show of happiness in the family. It's clear there was no love or attention left for Robert when his sister was gone.”
Keating disappears from the TV and a photograph of Gallo and his father, neither of whom looks very happy, fills the screen.
“At an annual memorial service six years after Judith's death, a tormented Robert stood up and shouted at his father, ‘When will this end?’ Later Dr. Gallo would recall seeing his sister for the last time, describing her as, quote: ‘a ghost, a concentration camp victim.’”
“After graduating from Thomas Jefferson University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Gallo discovered that he couldn't bear to be around sick people, and found his niche instead in the research lab, going to work at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland....”
Newspaper clippings, headlines announcing his promotions, and views of the outside of the Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology at the National Cancer Institute capture Sarah’s attention while Keating continues.
“Thanks to President Nixon's declared 'War on Cancer,' it didn't take long for an ambitious Robert Gallo to rise to the top as head of the Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology at the National Cancer Institute. And then it took less than ten years before he was in serious trouble.”
Keating reappears with the green screen behind him. What the viewers see, however, is the graphic GALLO: Saint or Sinner? projected onto the green screen.
“In 1974 an investigative panel of university scientists found Dr. Gallo's lab to be one of the worst offenders in the scandalous abuse of federal funds in cancer research.”
Newspaper headlines are superimposed over the bottom half of Keating as he talks.
“Two of his cohorts were later found guilty of embezzlement and taking secret gratuities.”
Then it’s just Keating again.
“In the midst of all this, Gallo needed a miracle, and just one year later he announced the discovery of the first identified human retrovirus, which he called Hl23V, and said it caused leukemia. When other scientists requested samples of his virus to test his claims, he at least on one occasion ordered his subordinates to damage the infected cells before sending them out, to make them useless for research.”
More newspaper headlines, this time on the green screen behind him.
“Finally, despite all the obstacles, it was discovered that Hl23V was a mistake, a contamination in Gallo's lab, a mixture of different retroviruses from various monkeys. The virus didn't actually exist. The joke going around was that Gallo's 'human tumor virus' was actually a 'human rumor virus.' Gallo initially tried to save his reputation, suggesting that human leukemia must be caused by one of these monkey viruses, but later retracted his claims, to his shame and dismay.”
Sarah pushes Pause. “I remember at this point thinking, My god, could all this really be true?”
Gwen just nods her head in agreement. “Me, too. But let’s keep going.” Sarah pushes Play again and Keating continues.
“But five years later Dr. Gallo is at it again, claiming the discovery of another human retrovirus he called HTLV-1, which he blamed for causing leukemia in blacks from the Caribbean. Unfortunately, he couldn't find the virus in American leukemia patients. And prior to Dr. Gallo's discovery of HTLV-1, a Japanese research team had also found a retrovirus in some Japanese leukemia patients, and they had sent their virus to Dr. Gallo for peer review. When Gallo published the genetic sequence of his own HTLV-1, it turned out to be identical to the Japanese virus, including a deliberate error intentionally planted by the Japanese research team, just in case someone tried to steal their discovery. Although it was clear that Dr. Gallo had indeed stolen the Japanese virus and claimed it as his own, no formal charges were ever brought. Instead, Dr. Gallo was awarded the prestigious Lasker Prize as the discoverer of HTLV-1.”
“But as a scientist who worked in Gallo's lab once put it, quote: ‘Gallo was known for this sort of unscrupulous behavior years before the AIDS virus ever came along.’ Perhaps the Japanese never pressed the issue because it turns out that this HTLV virus, pronounced by Gallo to be the cause of leukemia, is currently estimated to cause cancer in humans only once in every 2000 years. But thanks to the silence of the Japanese, Robert Gallo finally had a virus he could call his own, and if it didn't cause leukemia, he simply had to find a disease it did cause and he'd be famous.”
“He first tried to suggest HTLV-1 as a possible cause of such odd diseases as Kaposi's Sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, which had started to appear in gay men in the early 1980s. This was hard for anyone else to believe because, according to Gallo himself, HTLV-1 was supposed to cause leukemia, a cancer where cells are multiplying uncontrollably. Kaposi's Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia are diseases where the cells are dying prematurely – exactly the opposite. Besides, there was no sign of these diseases in Japan where the HTLV-1 virus is found in at least one million people. But Dr. Gallo was desperate; he needed something that would win him a Nobel Prize. Much more than money, the Nobel Prize seems to be the force that drives Robert Gallo, and in his mind justifies any means to get the prize he so richly deserves. So when AIDS was discovered and the world needed a cause for this new, deadly disease, Dr. Gallo saw his chance for fame and glory.”
A videotape of the press conference on April 23, 1984 now takes over the screen while Keating continues to narrate.
“Which brings us to the infamous press conference of April 23, 1984 when Dr. Gallo announced his discovery that a virus which would later be called HIV caused AIDS. We've heard testimony during the trial that it took an international agreement between nothing less than President Ronald Reagan of the United States and Prime Minister Jacques Chirac of France to settle the crisis Gallo had created by stealing the AIDS virus from the French. I spoke to Dr. George Mercer, who, at that time, was a research scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.”
The press conference is replaced on the green screen with video of an interview with Keating and another man.
“Dr. Mercer, tell us what you did in 1987.”
“I compared the genetic codes of both the French virus they were calling LAV and the virus Dr. Gallo claimed to have discovered and was calling HTLV-III.”
“And what were your conclusions?”
“The codes were so similar – almost identical – that I knew they were not independent discoveries, but had to have come from the same patient.”
“You're saying that both viruses had to come from the same body?”
“Yes. From the French patient.”
“So Dr. Gallo's virus that he claimed to have discovered in his laboratory had to have actually been sent over from France.”
“That's the only explanation I can give you.”
“And did you make anyone aware of your findings at that time.”
“Yes. I sent my report to senior officials at the National Institutes of Health.”
The video interview ends and Keating is once again live on the TV.
“Even a press spokesman at the National Institutes of Health said, quote: ‘Yeah, everybody here believes Gallo stole the virus.’”
Keating has a book in his hand that he holds up. On the green screen, pages 210 and 211, supposedly from this book, are displayed large enough to read.
“Finally in 1991, in his book, Virus Hunting, Dr. Gallo admits that the pictures of the HTLV-3 virus he offered in his 1984 press conference were really pictures of the French LAV virus. But he now claims that these pictures were, quote: ‘inadvertently used, largely for illustrative purposes.’”
“We also heard testimony this week that Dr. Gallo had ordered one of his research assistants, a Doctor Pavlovich...” video tape of Dr. Pavlovich on the witness stand silently runs behind Keating, “...to create a fake culture, called H9, to make it more difficult for anyone else to test his theories, contending that the H9 culture was the only one in which the AIDS virus would grow. In essence, Dr. Gallo stole the culture called HUT78 from Dr. Adi Gazdar, claimed he was the developer of this new culture called H9, and then limited who had access to it.”
As the camera returns to Keating live, it also begins to zoom in closer, leaving the green screen behind and centering Keating on the TV to deliver his next few lines.
“I also found out that Dr. Gallo even refused to lend the Center for Disease Control – his own governmental peers – any samples of his HTLV-3 virus unless they guaranteed in writing not to compare it to any other viruses, obviously fearing they would discover it was identical to the French.”
The camera pulls back again to reveal the cover of what looks like an official government report above Keating’s right shoulder.
“When all of this began to surface in 1989, thanks largely to Pulitzer Prize-winner John Crewdson of the Chicago Tribune, the Office of Scientific Integrity – an arm of the National Institutes of Health – was forced to conduct an investigation. They issued a preliminary report in September of 1991, finding evidence of misconduct on the part of Dr. Robert Gallo. However, Gallo's boss at the NIH saved him from disgrace, humiliation, and expulsion by changing the final OSI report…” the green screen zooms in to focus on actual text from the OSI report, “…finding him guilty of only, quote: ‘creating and fostering conditions that gave rise to falsified and fabricated data and falsified reports’ – a minor misdemeanor, in other words.”
The OSI report fades and the cover of Science Magazine appears….
“But Gallo had published an article in Science Magazine in the spring of 1985 claiming that his new virus had been, quote: ‘isolated from a total of 48 subjects.’ Under later examination by John Crewdson of the Chicago Tribune, no trace of those 48 isolates could be found.”
…which then dissolves into another official-looking report cover.
“And this led to another investigation by the Office of Research Integrity of the Department of Health and Human Services. Their 1992 report found Dr. Gallo guilty of scientific misconduct – the harshest possible verdict, and a death sentence in career terms.”
The camera zooms past Keating to the green screen, which begins to list items from the findings of the O.R.I. report as Keating describes them.
“Among other things, the report found that Gallo had lied about not growing the French virus LAV in his own lab; that he had added, quote: ‘gratuitous, self-serving and improper alterations,’ to an article submitted for publication by his French competitors, to make the article favor his own hypothesis about the AIDS virus; that, quote: ‘Dr. Gallo must bear substantial responsibility for the numerous discrepancies, including four instances of scientific misconduct,’ in papers published by Science Magazine in 1985; and that, quote: ‘especially in the light of the ground-breaking nature of this research and its profound public health implications, the Office of Research Integrity believes that the careless and unacceptable keeping of research records reflects irresponsible laboratory management that has permanently impaired the ability to trace the important steps taken.’ They also called some of Gallo's key research, quote: ‘of dubious scientific merit,’ and, quote: ‘really crazy.’”
Keating looks up as his image returns to the TV screen, obviously having just read from his notes. He pauses, and even shakes his head a little, almost as if he didn’t believe what he had just read, either.
“Even Congress got involved in 1994, under the direction of Representative John Dingell and his Subcommittee on Oversights and Investigations of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.”
“The driving force behind the committee's staff report was Dr. Alfred Gilman, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, who accused Dr. Gallo of, quote: ‘intellectual recklessness of a high degree.’ The Dingell Report focused on many of the things we've already discussed and included Gallo's perjury in his HIV blood test patent application. We heard testimony in court just today that closely aligned with the Dingell Report, which stated that...”
The cover of the Dingell report becomes the background while the various quotes appear on top.
“...Dr. Gallo had failed to disclose to the Patent Office that scientists at the Pasteur Institute of Paris had already performed, quote: ‘extensive work,’ with the AIDS virus and had used it to make an HIV blood test of their own and submitted a patent application four months before Gallo's. Despite a legal obligation to disclose all information material to the claim of inventorship of the blood test, the report says that Gallo failed to inform the Patent Office of his use of the French virus in the preparation of his own blood test.”
When Keating’s face returns to the screen, there’s almost an excitement evident, as if he were now getting some pleasure out of exposing Gallo to the world. Or was it because he knew what was coming next?
“When this Dingell Report was made public, Dr. Gallo was forced to leave the National Institutes of Health in disgrace. But not for long. In 1993, a review board of lawyers – not scientists, mind you – lawyers had serendipitously changed the definition of ‘scientific misconduct.’ No longer able to convict Dr. Gallo of anything more than the misdemeanor already on his record, the government dropped all the charges. Gallo, of course, claimed total vindication. But not everyone found him so innocent. For example, if the highest honor for scientific success is to be awarded the Nobel Prize, the second highest honor is membership in the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Gallo's nomination was rejected six times. He was finally admitted in 1988, six years after winning the Lasker Prize for the discovery of a virus he didn’t discover, and even then it had to be done through a special nomination process.”
A TIME Magazine cover now occupies the green screen.
“TIME Magazine has described Robert Gallo as, quote: ‘brash, competitive, and vain.’ In 1998, German virologist Stefan Lanka called Gallo, quote: ‘an American scientific gangster who had committed so many crass, self-aggrandizing blunders in the previous decade that he could not really be relied upon to tell the time correctly.’ The Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Dr. Kary Mullis, considers Gallo and his followers, quote: ‘so stupid they're to be pitied.’”
Suddenly there is a complete change of scene. A man is seated with his face concealed and not looking directly into the camera. Keating is nowhere to be seen, but his voice continues.
“One former employee, who requested that their identity remain secret, said this about Dr. Gallo's laboratory...”
The voice is rough and deep, obviously mechanically altered to protect the identity of the speaker.
“It was a den of thieves. It resembled a medieval Italian town with its intrigues and capricious purges.... It was hard to be an honest person in that place.... I know of three employees who committed suicide.... I'm just surprised somebody hasn't killed someone there.”
Keating is back and addressing the camera.
“According to another source, Gallo once told a lab member that he liked to hire foreigners because if they didn't do what he wanted, he could deport them. When Frank Ruscetti, a cell biologist, asked why he was being fired, Gallo replied, quote: ‘Well, because you're getting too much credit.’ But Gallo didn't seem to stop there. At a 1987 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, he accosted the author of a book that was not complimentary to Gallo, pulled an envelope from his pocket, and said, quote: ‘I have here a five-step program to destroy you.’”
Behind Keating is now a picture of the Chicago Tribune reporter, John Crewdson.
“Gallo also tried to discredit veteran reporter John Crewdson, who was hot on Gallo’s trail, by calling the Bethesda police and claiming Crewdson had broken into his house. The police found no evidence and the investigation was dropped.”
…which is then replaced by a picture of Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“Even one of his closest friends and a long-time colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had this to say about Robert Gallo...”
The quote takes over the TV screen.
“Bob will run you over. He has this 'screw you – I'm the best and you're full of crap' attitude. He doesn't give a good bleep-damn who he pushes around, or pushes aside.”
Keating is back, by himself.
“In 1996, when his $100,000-a-year royalty payments were nearing an end, Dr. Gallo left the National Cancer Institute and went on his own, getting the state of Maryland to put up nine million dollars and the city of Baltimore to add three million more to open the Institute of Human Virology, which he currently runs.”
Pictures of the Institute of Human Virology fade in and out like a slideshow.
“The sweet part of the deal is that Dr. Gallo has carte blanche to take whatever discoveries he makes and market them through a private company, named Omega Biotherapies, of which he is the founder and part owner, and which will pay him very handsome royalties for his so-called discoveries.”
The camera pulls back from Keating to reveal Laura still standing there by his side.
“Laura, after discovering all of this, I only have one remaining question about Dr. Gallo. Now that he is in the private sector, with no one to steal from any more, can Dr. Gallo discover anything on his own? A former co-worker said, quote: ‘I've never known him to have an idea that didn't come from someone else.’”
Laura looks a little stunned. She obviously had not seen or heard this report in full, and for the first time, she appears speechless. But her instincts as an anchor take over.
“Thank you Dr. Keating, I think. It's not a very pretty picture that you paint of the man we have believed for the last 25 years when it comes to AIDS and HIV. Was all this buried deep in some cave where no reporter could find it until now?”
Keating shook his head. “I wish I could take credit for uncovering this, Laura, but I can't. The information has been out there all along, but no one has wanted to deal with it, or didn't know what to do with it, I guess. I just put everything into one piece, that's all. But that one piece looks pretty bad.”
Laura still doesn’t know exactly what to do next.
“Well, okay, Dr. Keating. Good work. And that concludes our special report for tonight….”
Sarah pushes the Stop button. Neither one of them say anything. All they can do is look at each other in disbelief. Finally Gwen breaks the silence.
“The man is obviously very sick.”
“A megalomaniac,” Sarah agrees.
“But I still don’t understand how he could get away with it. I mean, look at how many lives this man has ruined as a result of his lies!”
“I’ve thought about that question a lot, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it wasn’t him.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that I think Gallo is a pathetic excuse for a human being, but I don’t think he’s evil – twisted as a result of his childhood, maybe, but not truly evil. And I think it took someone standing behind him who was evil to make this happen.”
“You mean you think this was all a big conspiracy, with a mastermind?”
“No, no. I didn’t mean that either. No, this was definitely not a conspiracy, like the Kennedy assassination, or the Gulf of Tonkin that got this country into the Vietnam War. I mean, there are people who think that HIV and AIDS was a deliberate result of a secret government program to create biological weapons. But nobody in their right mind would spend time developing a harmless retrovirus like HIV when there’s a lot of other really dangerous stuff out there. There’s just no evidence I can find anywhere to say that HIV was intentionally created, especially since we now know from the AIDS trial that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS.”
“So what do you think happened, and who was behind it?”
“I think that in 1984, we had a perfect storm. Lots of things lined up just right that allowed Gallo to move to center stage and perpetrate his lies. For one thing, Gallo was part of a failed War on Cancer; and he, like a lot of other virologists, was about to be out of a job. The CDC was losing its funding and desperately needed a new plague to keep them in business. The gay community wanted the blame for AIDS to be shifted away from their lifestyle. The politicians needed an answer to get the gays off their backs. The drug companies needed more revenue for their stockholders. And all of them needed AIDS to become a disease that could affect the entire world. So Gallo was just a pawn in the overall scheme of things.”
“So no conspiracy? I’ve wondered about that from time to time.”
“Actually, I think there was a conspiracy, but it came later, in 1987.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that HIV and AIDS was not the result of some evil force’s intentional plan to wipe out huge segments of our population; but when Dr. Peter Duesberg published his paper in 1987 challenging HIV as the cause of AIDS, a conspiracy was begun to keep him and everyone else who agrees with him quiet. There’s even an internal memo that circulated around the CDC that said Duesberg had to be ‘contained.’ That was the word they used – ‘contained.’ And obviously, they were pretty successful at it for more than twenty years.”
“And you think you know who was behind it?”
“Well, like I said, I don’t think Gallo was, or is, evil. But I think Dr. Anthony Fauci is. And he’s still right there today, as head of the National Institute for Allergic and Infectious Diseases, calling the shots.”
“I don’t think I ever heard of Dr. Fauci.”
“Most people probably haven’t. But that’s exactly the way a truly evil person operates. They stay out of the limelight and pull the strings for their puppets on stage, like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney did with George Bush.”
Gwen shivers. “Sounds…. creepy. But I’m not even sure I believe that truly evil people exist.”
“Maybe not. But when I look at what Fauci, and Gallo, and Moore and Wainberg have done to literally millions of people all over the world – including your brother and mine – I can’t find any other explanation. I mean, how does any sane person justify the genocide that’s going on right now in Africa as a result of the drugs we’re giving to those helpless people? If there was any spark of goodness inside, how could any of them sleep at night?”
“But what about President Clinton, and Oprah, and Bono, and Bill Gates, and all the other celebrities trying to raise money to send the anti-retrovirals to Africa?”
“They’re probably really good people with good hearts who mean well and honestly think they’re doing something good for the world. But they obviously have never read any of the science about HIV and AIDS, and about the HIV tests and the HIV drugs, and instead have simply jumped on the bandwagon and believed what they were told by Fauci and company.”
“You know, that’s one of the arguments I get a lot whenever I talk to people about this issue. ‘How can so many people be wrong?’ Of course, we thought the earth was flat for a long time, and that the sun revolved around the earth, and that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that the Reverend Ted Haggard was straight. So maybe I’m just a contrarian, but I’m not sure that just because ‘everyone says so’ makes something true. After all, we were also told that cigarettes weren’t addictive by people we trusted for a long time.”
“Who can we trust these days, Gwen?”
“Well, I know one thing for sure, we can’t trust the pharmaceutical companies.”
“Or the people who work for them. Did you know there’s a website called www.shillfactor.net that lists a lot of the prominent AIDS Industry people and shows how many of them are either on the payroll of a drug company or receive major grants from Big Pharma? Talking about a conflict of interest!”
Gwen takes the last sip of her wine. “I’d love to continue this, but I’ve got to teach tomorrow and you’ve got court. What say we call it a night?”
“Agreed.” Sarah gets up off the sofa, but stops short. “Gwen… thanks for tonight. There’s not a lot of people I can talk to about this, and I’m just really grateful to have you as a friend.”
“Let’s hope that soon we don’t feel so all alone!”