Premieres Tonight at 8pm ET
The decade's most triggering comedy
Scientists who authored a paper on the origins of COVID-19 agreed the best course of action was to downplay the Chinese lab leak theory over concerns about international fallout, newly released internal messages show.
Dr. Andrew Rambaut and Dr. Kristian Andersen discussed the issue in an early February 2020 Slack conversation with colleagues, which took place several weeks before their “Proximal Origin” report got published in the journal Nature Medicine in March of the same year.
Rambaut, on February 2, 2020, said, “given the s*** show that would happen if anyone serious accused the Chinese of even accidental release, my feeling is we should say that given there is no evidence of a specifically engineered virus, we cannot possibly distinguish between natural evolution and escape so we are content with ascribing it to natural process.”
In response to Rambaut’s message, Andersen replied, “Yup, I totally agree that that’s a very reasonable conclusion. Although I hate when politics is injected into science – but its [sic] impossible not to, especially given the circumstances.”
Republicans on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic disclosed the Slack discussion in a staff report, highlighting the exchange as evidence of “possible motives” by researchers to “defend China and play diplomat.”
During a hearing on Tuesday, Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) even confronted Andersen with the Slack messages, saying the witness had a “preferred political narrative.” Still, Andersen and Robert Garry, another author on the paper, both testified under oath that they stand by their report’s ultimate conclusion that COVID-19 was not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.
The GOP staff report also raises concerns that the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and specifically Dr. Anthony Fauci and then-NIH Director Francis Collins, exerted undue influence over the “Proximal Origin” paper to dismiss the Chinese lab leak theory, which over time has gained traction over the natural emergence theory among agencies in the U.S. intelligence community.
Democrats on the COVID panel released their own report insisting that all evidence available to the subcommittee, including testimony from Anderson, “demonstrates that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins did not lead, oversee, or influence the drafting and publication of ‘Proximal Origin’ or seek to suppress the lab leak theory through the paper’s conclusions.”