At a Jan. 30, 2020 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican told colleagues: “This coronavirus is a catastrophe on the scale of Chernobyl for China. But actually, it’s probably worse than Chernobyl, which was localized in its effect. The coronavirus could result in a global pandemic. I would note that Wuhan has China’s only biosafety level-four super laboratory that works with the world’s most deadly pathogens to include, yes, coronavirus.”
Cotton was widely mocked by the liberal media over those remarks and similar ones to follow.
Looking back to the early days of the coronavirus, anyone who mentioned that the virus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan was labeled a conspiracy theorist. Saying the virus may have been created in that lab was even worse.
In recent weeks, however, journalists who once scoffed at such a notion are opening to the possibility.
The Washington Post’s “fact-checker,” Glenn Kessler, who was himself the subject of a fact-check involving remarks about Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, actually admits that the legacy media’s anti-Trump bias may have been behind their rejection of the lab leak theory.
Kessler excuses both himself and his colleagues from performing their due diligence by saying that the lab leak theory “often got mixed up with speculation that the virus was deliberately created as a bioweapon,” which he finds preposterous. (When the truth finally comes out, he may be proven wrong about that as well. But I digress.) Surely any journalist worth his or her salt would be able to separate the two, and investigate both theories. Did the virus escape accidentally from the lab that was tied to the CCP’s military or was it intentionally released?
It was China’s “lack of transparency” and “renewed attention to the activities of the Wuhan lab” that finally opened their eyes to the possibility that the virus may have leaked from the lab, the only lab in China that is known to work with this specific pathogen.
He finally gets around to the real reason: former President Donald Trump. Here too, Kessler tries hard to absolve himself and the rest of the media. He writes: “The Trump administration also sought to highlight the lab scenario but generally could only point to vague intelligence. The Trump administration’s messaging was often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims.”
I’m sure by now, nearly a year and a half after the coronavirus reached our shores, U.S. intelligence agencies have more solid information about its origins. But in those early days, all Trump had to go on was vague intelligence.
As for his anti-Chinese rhetoric making it easier to ignore his claims, wouldn’t a serious investigative journalist be able to put the President’s comments aside and look at the facts? Isn’t that a journalist’s job?
Isn’t Kessler essentially saying that the theory was dismissed mostly because of its connection to Trump?
Kessler takes readers through a COVID-19 timeline. Most of the early reactions were based on the lab leak theory and left the door open to the possibility that it could have been intentional.
18 years ago, #China killed nearly 300 #HongKongers by unreporting #SARS cases, letting Chinese tourists travel around the world, to Asia specifically to spread the virus with bad intention. Today the evil regime strikes again with a new virus. #Wuhan #ChinesePneumonia #bioweapon
— Garbo Gurung🖐☝️ #Save12 #StandwithHongKong (@GarboHK) January 5, 2020
On Feb. 6, “Botao Xiao, a molecular biomechanics researcher at South China University of Technology, posts a paper stating that ‘the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.’ He pointed to the previous safety mishaps and the kind of research undertaken at the lab. He withdrew the paper a few weeks later after Chinese authorities insisted no accident had taken place,” according to The Post.
Did any journalists wonder why Xiao withdrew the paper? That researchers who didn’t acquiesce to the CCP’s version of events had a way of disappearing?
On Feb. 9, Cotton struck back via Twitter against China’s ambassador who had said his remarks were “absolutely crazy.”
.@ambcuitianki, here’s what’s not a conspiracy, not a theory:
Fact: China lied about virus starting in Wuhan food market https://t.co/Jgpy1Oh75Y
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 9, 2020
Fact: super-lab is just a few miles from that market
Where did it start? We don’t know. But burden of proof is on you & fellow communists. Open up now to competent international scientists.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 9, 2020
Following more criticism from The Washington Post, Cotton responded with the following Twitter thread:
Let me debunk the debunkers. @paulina_milla and her “experts” wrongly jump straight to the claim that the coronavirus is an engineered bioweapon. That’s not what I’ve said. There’s at least four hypotheses about the origin of the virus: https://t.co/536ygN1gC7
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 17, 2020
The hypotheses include: “1. Natural (still the most likely, but almost certainly not from the Wuhan food market); 2. Good science, bad safety (eg, they were researching things like diagnostic testing and vaccines, but an accidental breach occurred); 3. Bad science, bad safety (this is the engineered-bioweapon hypothesis, with an accidental breach); 4. Deliberate release (very unlikely, but shouldn’t rule out till the evidence is in); Again, none of these are ‘theories’ and certainly not ‘conspiracy theories.’ They are hypotheses that ought to be studied in light of the evidence.”
The turning point in the debate over COVID’s origins came on Feb. 19 when a group of public health scientists published a joint statement, which was scolding in its nature, in the elite medical journal Lancet.
It read: “The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its origins. We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin. Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2),1 and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.”
According to The Post, “the statement was drafted and organized by Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance,which funded research at WIV with U.S. government grants. (Three of the signers have since said a laboratory accident is plausible enough to merit consideration.)”
These so-called “experts” did the world a great disservice by signing on to this statement. They provided China with an excuse to escape blame for the virus. It was this letter that did more than anything else to turn the tide away from the lab leak theory.
The media would point to this letter from the “experts” and ridicule anyone who mentioned the lab leak theory.
So, why now are they changing their tune? Why did PolitiFact retract their earlier fact check (which debunked the lab leak theory) last week? Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing. Perhaps they’re privy to something that hasn’t been made public yet. Or maybe it’s because there is growing circumstantial evidence that points to the lab leak theory.
Whatever the reason, Kessler’s article was a feeble attempt to explain why the vast majority of journalists, once again, failed to do their jobs.
A version of this article was posted in The Western Journal.