Way back in January, when Democrats only cared about removing President Donald Trump from office, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) was sounding the alarm on the coronavirus, which at that time appeared contained to China.
Cotton kept asking questions about whether China was telling the truth about how the coronavirus outbreak originated.
“We don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that,” Cotton said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” back in mid-February “We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.”
Cotton went on to acknowledge that the U.S. needs more information about how the disease originated in China.
“Now, we don’t have evidence that this disease originated there, but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says,” Cotton said. “And China right now is not giving any evidence on that question at all.”
The Washington Post and other media outlets “fact checked” Cotton’s statements, except they fact checked something Cotton never said. The Post’s fact check consisted of talking to a chemical biology professor at Rutgers University who said, “There’s absolutely nothing in the genome sequence of this virus that indicates the virus was engineered.”
Another professor said it was “highly unlikely” the virus infected the general population due to an accident at China’s super lab, but then also said it was wrong to suggest China intentionally released the disease – again, something Cotton didn’t say.
Cotton responded to the “fact checkers” by saying he didn’t say the coronavirus was bioengineered. He then listed four hypotheses – not theories – about how the virus originated and again said China needed to provide more information. The four hypotheses were: 1) The virus came from natural causes, 2) it was accidentally released from the lab, 3) it was bio-engineered and accidentally released, and 4) it was bio-engineered and deliberately released. He said the third and fourth hypotheses were the least likely. He also listed these after so-called fact checkers claimed he suggested China deliberately released a bioweapon into the world.
Now, in early April, Post columnist David Ignatius begrudgingly accepts that maybe Cotton was right to suggest the coronavirus was accidentally released from the lab that studies the coronavirus. Of course, Ignatius couldn’t say Cotton was right, and instead downplayed Cotton’s early talk of an accidental release by claiming “Cotton’s earlier loose talk about bioweapons set off a furor, back when he first raised it in late January and called the outbreak ‘worse than Chernobyl.’”
Ignatius also worked in a dig at President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus,” even though major media outlets – including the Post – were using those terms until the Chinese Communist Party said it was racist to use them.
Ignatius then said “China dished wild, irresponsible allegations of its own,” even though he provided no evidence the U.S. also dished “wild, irresponsible allegations.”
Still, Ignatius finally admitted that “the initial ‘origin story’ — that the virus was spread by people who ate contaminated animals at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan — is shaky.” He then spoke to the same Rutgers professor from the Post’s earlier fact check who now acknowledged that “the first human infection could have occurred as a natural accident.”
More from Ignatius:
Ebright described a December video from the Wuhan CDC that shows staffers “collecting bat coronaviruses with inadequate [personal protective equipment] and unsafe operational practices.” Separately, I reviewed two Chinese articles, from 2017 and 2019, describing the heroics of Wuhan CDC researcher Tian Junhua, who while capturing bats in a cave “forgot to take protective measures” so that “bat urine dripped from the top of his head like raindrops.”
And then there’s the Chinese study that was curiously withdrawn. In February, a site called ResearchGate published a brief article by Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao from Guangzhou’s South China University of Technology. “In addition to origins of natural recombination and intermediate host, the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high risk biohazardous laboratories,” the article concluded. Botao Xiao told the Wall Street Journal in February that he had withdrawn the paper because it “was not supported by direct proofs.”
Yet the Post refused to accept Cotton may have been right to suggest the virus came from that lab that was just down the street from the epicenter of the virus. Instead it used the opportunity to paint the Arkansas senator as a conspiracy theorist.