USA Today piece details suppression of lab leak theory, and how alternate ideas were ridiculed
By Gary Abernathy
Prestige of those who dismissed lab leak theory thwarted alternate opinions about how covid-19 began to spread
There’s a fascinating piece in USA Today about the origins of covid-19, including new comments from Dr. Anthony Fauci. The piece is written by opinion contributor Alison Young, “a reporter who has spent a decade revealing hundreds of serious safety breaches at U.S. biological research labs.”
Young notes that there always seemed an obvious need to dive deeper into whether the virus originated in the Wuhan, China lab — considering the initial outbreak happened in that city.
She writes, “Yet for more than a year, those who publicly raised such questions were too often deemed a crackpot conspiracy theorist or a simpleton who just didn’t understand science.” She forgot to mention “racist” or “xenophobe,” other accusations that were hurled at anyone suggesting the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
As Young writes in describing top scientists who were determined to debunk the lab leak theory, “To journalists and many scientists, the prestige of the writers and the certainty of their words made it seem the science was settled.”
Here’s a common-sense note to everyone for future reference: On something so new and emerging as covid, the science is not settled. It’s still not settled. The motives of anyone insisting that science is settled in a situation like this — and shutting down alternative opinions — should be closely scrutinized.
Young quotes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist and biosafety expert at Rutgers University in New Jersey as saying, “A small group of scientists, and a larger group of science journalists, established and enforced the false narrative that scientific evidence supported natural spillover, and (also) the false narrative that this was the scientific consensus.”
Ebright was, in fact, a top source of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius for a piece he wrote way back on April 2, 2020 suggesting the virus could have leaked from the Wuhan lab. That piece was followed by one written April 14, 2020, by Josh Rogin, also a Post columnist, who reported that in January 2018 “the U.S. Embassy in Beijing took the unusual step of repeatedly sending U.S. science diplomats to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which had in 2015 become China’s first laboratory to achieve the highest level of international bioresearch safety (known as BSL-4).” He added, “What the U.S. officials learned during their visits concerned them so much that they dispatched two diplomatic cables categorized as Sensitive But Unclassified back to Washington. The cables warned about safety and management weaknesses at the WIV lab and proposed more attention and help. The first cable, which I obtained, also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.”
What Young does not wade into very deeply in her USA Today piece are the politics behind shutting down the lab leak theory. Allow me to elaborate.
As we entered the late spring of 2020, any suggestion that the virus leaked from the Wuhan lab was met with media ridicule — most likely, it’s not unreasonable to suspect, because President Donald Trump supported the theory, and anything Trump said, most of Big Media made it their mission to contradict. See “masks,” which were deemed pretty useless until Trump refused to wear one, after which one new study — one — came out and said masks were effective, and the media decided nothing was more important.
But back to the lab leak theory. Here are examples of the media downplaying it, because Trump supported it:
NPR, April 23, 2020: “Virus researchers say there is virtually no chance that the new coronavirus was released as result of a laboratory accident in China or anywhere else. The assessment, made by more than half-a-dozen scientists familiar with lab accidents and how research on coronaviruses is conducted, casts doubt on recent claims that a mistake may have unleashed the coronavirus on the world. The accident theory has been advanced by the Trump administration in recent weeks.”
CNN, May 1, 2020: “President Donald Trump contradicted a rare on-the-record statement from his own intelligence community by claiming Thursday that he has seen evidence that gives him a ‘high degree of confidence’ the novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, but declined to provide details to back up his assertion. The comments undercut a public statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued just hours earlier which stated no such assessment has been made…”
Global News, May 1, 2020: “U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday again pushed the theory that the novel coronavirus originated from a Chinese laboratory, and claimed he’s seen evidence to back it up. But experts say the idea that the virus somehow escaped the lab before spreading to over 3 million people worldwide — or, worse, that it was man-made in that lab — is ‘ridiculous,’ ‘foolish’ and ‘implausible.’”
The Intercept, May 19, 2020: “For weeks, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been claiming without evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic is linked to a lab in Wuhan that researches bat coronaviruses. Their efforts are clearly calculated to distract from Trump’s bungled response to the virus, and, for rational observers, they have tainted the notion that the outbreak began with a lab accident or safety breach.”
There are countless similar articles to be found throughout 2020. A chilling byproduct of the effort to create one narrative, and one narrative only, about covid is the decision by social media giants to suppress or put “warning labels” on any statements contradicting the leading “experts.” We live in frightening times where free speech and thought are concerned.
To those of us who have long questioned his credibility on covid-19, and the media’s unquestioning reliance on his opinions and expertise, Fauci’s comments throughout Young’s USA Today piece reinforce his slick effort to have it both ways on topic after topic when it comes to covid. On this subject, he insists he was always open to the lab leak theory when, in fact, he was actually highly dismissive of it.
Young’s piece is well worth reading — another contribution to the growing list of alternative narratives on the coronavirus now being allowed to surface in ways that were completely suppressed when it mattered most, and when Trump could be ridiculed for it in ways that contributed to defeating him — a goal that sadly permeated so much of the news media’s reporting in 2020.
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