In the last week, several well-respected scientific experts have acknowledged that COVID-19 may have originated from a lab, shattering the previously sacrosanct consensus that the virus spread from a bat to a human being at a Chinese wet market. The media spent months enforcing the party line, silencing its critics, and humiliating those who suggested the novel coronavirus may have come from a lab — especially former president Donald Trump.
Those admitting the scientific consensus about the virus’ origins is not as ironclad as once believed include Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has reversed his public stance on whether the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. As tThe Daily Wire reported:
In an interview earlier this month, published on Saturday, PolitiFact’s Katie Sanders asked Fauci: “There’s a lot of cloudiness around the origins of COVID-19 still, so I wanted to ask, are you still confident that it developed naturally?”
“No actually,” Fauci said, “I am not convinced about that, I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened.”
Similarly, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said in a U.S. Senate hearing last week, “Certainly, a lab-based origin is one possibility.”
The media have accordingly updated their story:
- “COVID-19 lab leak theory cannot be ruled out, leading scientists say,” reported Reuters;
- “Fauci bombshell: ‘Not convinced’ COVID-19 developed naturally outside Wuhan lab,” proclaimed The Hill; and
- “New information on Wuhan researchers’ illness furthers debate on pandemic origins,” said CNN.
Yet for much of the pandemic, the legacy media belittled those who dared to question the approved origin story. Here are a few of the most egregious examples:
CNN flexed as Fauci “crushed” Trump’s Wuhan lab theory
Last May 5, CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza wrote, “Anthony Fauci just crushed Donald Trump’s theory on the origins of the coronavirus.”
“For weeks now, President Donald Trump has been making the case that the coronavirus originated not in nature but in a lab in Wuhan, China,” wrote Cillizza. He then quoted Dr. Fauci, who said he felt the evidence “strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.”
“Now, before we play the game of ‘he said, he said’ remember this: Only one of these two people is a world-renowned infectious disease expert. And it’s not Donald Trump,” he continued. “In short, Fauci’s view on the origins of the disease matters a whole lot more than Trump’s opinion about where it came from.”
His argument previewed the network’s attitude, broadly shared throughout the legacy media, that journalists should not give equal coverage to both sides of a story but highlight the “true” one. Doing so in this case resulted in CNN’s embarrassing, public reversal.
USA Today: One of several crazy conspiracy theories
Just four days after the first American case of COVID-19, USA Today reprinted an article by Jessica McDonald of FactCheck.org titled “Bogus coronavirus conspiracy theory about patents, vaccine spreads on social media.” The story lumped the idea that the coronavirus originated in a lab together with off-the-wall claims that scientists had patented the virus and already developed a vaccine.
“Following … the announcement of the first American case Jan. 21, several groups and individuals are circulating false rumors on Facebook about the mystery pathogen,” USA Today warned on January 25, 2020. “Numerous posts claim the virus has been patented — and some even suggest, incorrectly, that the virus was made in a lab and a vaccine already exists.”
McDonald then dismissed all three theories as equally preposterous. “It is not true that a vaccine already exists — just as claims that the virus previously had a patent and was manufactured in a lab are also false,” USA Today insisted.
Foreign Policy: Don’t panic, especially since COVID-19 won’t spread in the West
Last January 29, Foreign Policy condemned “an outbreak of nonsense and conspiracy theories,” such as The Washington Times’ “claiming that the virus’ outbreak could be linked to a military lab in Wuhan … the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
The prestigious policy publication told its readers not to worry, because “public health officials stress there is no need for panic, especially not in the West where the risk of transmission remains low.”
Too bad they didn’t tell the virus.
National Public Radio (NPR): “Virtually no chance” of a lab origin
“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,” NPR reported last April 23 (at your expense). It equated the Trump administration’s claims that the virus came from the Wuhan lab with Chinese claims that American soldiers spread the virus in China. “It’s a real shame that the conspiracy theories can get to the level they’ve got with policymakers,” said one of its scientists NPR chose to quote.
NPR (again): Blaming China is just like the run-up to the Iraq war!
Not content to place the Trump administration on par with the People’s Republic of China, taxpayer-funded NPR compared alleged Trump “pressure” on intelligence agencies about the Wuhan lab to intelligence failures about Iraq’s WMDs before the 2003 invasion. “As Trump Pushes Theory Of Virus Origins, Some See Parallels In Lead-Up To Iraq War” said a story filed by “Morning Edition” reporter Geoff Brumfiel last May 6.
“Some former intelligence officials and independent analysts now say that the disconnect echoes missteps that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq,” he said. Brumfiel quoted a think tank denizen, who claimed Trump officials “are creating these enormous incentives within the intelligence community to tell them what they want to hear, so they can do what they want to do.”
The Hill: Lab origins are “baseless”
The Hill reported that an alarming number of Americans thought the virus could have originated in a lab according to a Hill/HarrisX poll released last August.
“A number of Americans have voiced a level of acceptance for baseless theories surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Capitol-based news source reported. “A majority of registered voters in the poll, 56 percent, said they at least somewhat believe the claim that ‘COVID-19 was created in a lab,’ despite many scientists saying they think the virus developed naturally.”
Note to The Hill: Many scientists’ assertions on behalf of one theory do not render other theories “baseless.” That’s not how science works.
“The poll found Republican voters to be more likely than Democratic voters to give stock to the theories and misinformation,” added Hill reporter Gabriela Schulte.
New York Times spreads its own coronavirus conspiracy theory
This January, The New York Times tried to claim that the Trump administration officials “pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan” (See NPR above.) The paper told its readers that “scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a nonlaboratory setting.”
Then it rehearsed its own conspiracy theory. “Trump’s aides and Republicans in Congress have sought to blame China for the pandemic in part to deflect criticism of the administration’s mismanagement of the crisis in the United States, which now has more coronavirus cases than any country,” the newspaper of record asserted without evidence.
The Associated Press: Trump admin. “pointing fingers” at China
The world’s most widely read news service, The Associated Press, portrayed any assertion that the virus came from a Chinese lab as speculation that flies in the face of scientific consensus. “Scientists say the virus arose naturally in bats. Even so, [Trump administration Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo and others have pointed fingers at an institute that is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences,” the AP wrote in an April 30, 2020, article titled “Trump speculates that China released virus in lab ‘mistake.’”
“This all comes as the pace of Trump’s own original response continues to come under scrutiny, questioned as too meager and too slow,” the AP added helpfully.
Vox Media: Multiple “debunkings”
No one relished challenging claims made by President Trump more than the left-wing website Vox, which posted two in-depth articles on the topic. Last March 12, Eliza Barclay wrote, “The conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus, debunked.” After bashing Rush Limbaugh, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Steve Bannon, and China expert Steven Mosher, she wrote that “[t]he scientific evidence disproving these rumors matters because the conspiracy theory could persist and undermine trust in public health authorities at this critical moment.”
Not content with one article, she posted a follow-up piece on April 23. She wrote: “Trump and the GOP’s motivation to establish new ways to blame China for the pandemic is clear: The president’s response to the pandemic has been abominable, and he faces an election in six months, with more than 22 million people unemployed and an economy heading toward recession.”
ABC News: Trump should keep funding the Wuhan lab’s research
ABC News lamented the fact that the Trump administration ended federal funding of research at the Wuhan lab in a story titled “Trump admin pulls NIH grant for coronavirus research over ties to Wuhan lab at heart of conspiracy theories” last May 1.
ABC News called the Wuhan Institute of Virology “the biomedical lab at the heart of conspiracy theories that the Chinese government created or unleashed the virus or the unproven thesis that the outbreak started with an accident because of faulty safety standards in the lab.”
“[W]hile U.S. intelligence agencies look for clues of a potential lab accident, epidemiological experts say it’s highly unlikely the first transmission happened that way. Virus samples in labs are almost never still infectious, after being frozen in nitrogen during the collection process and then inactivated in the lab to preserve their genetic sequence,” ABC assured its readers.
The subheadline to the story reads, “Despite Trump’s attacks, the US group doing the research defended the Wuhan lab.”
Honorable mention: NPR (threepeat): Demanding accountability could hurt U.S. relations with the Chinese Communist Party
Concerns about investigating the Wuhan lab’s role in coronavirus did not end with the Trump administration. “Some worry that a hard-charging focus on hypothetical lab accidents might further bog down U.S.-China relations, which are at their rockiest in decades,” NPR worried on March 31 of this year. “And, for better or worse, pushing hard might make it tougher to get answers about the origins of the pandemic — which will be difficult to do under any circumstances.”
A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the CDC director. She is Rochelle Walensky, not Rachel.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.