The media and the experts completely reverse their positions after new reports emerge about the Wuhan Institute. Last year, they branded anyone that questioned the bat origin story as a conspiracy theorist, pushing fringe ideas. Today, they’re finally starting to acknowledge the possibility. What changed and why did they pretend they knew the truth when that was impossible so early on?
On September 15, 2020, Dr Li-Meng Yan, a Chinese virologist, appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight and declared, “I can present solid scientific evidence to our audience that this virus, COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 virus, actually is not from nature. It is a man-made virus created in the lab.” The supposedly neutral fact-checking website, Politifact, promptly sprung into action and rated the assertion “Pants on Fire” false. “The genetic structure of the novel coronavirus, which has been shared by thousands of scientists worldwide, rules out the possibility that it was manipulated in a lab. Public health authorities have repeatedly said the virus was not created in a lab. Scientists believe the coronavirus originated in bats before jumping to humans. Experts have publicly rebuked Yan’s paper, and it’s unclear whether it was peer reviewed. The claim is inaccurate and ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire!”
Last Monday, however, they retracted their claim, noting that the “assertion is now more widely disputed. For that reason, we are removing this fact-check from our database pending a more thorough review. Currently, we consider the claim to be unsupported by the evidence and in dispute.” Unfortunately, Politifact was not alone in suppressing similar claims regarding the origin of the coronavirus. Republican Senator Tom Cotton was one of the first prominent figures to question the bat-to-human origin story.
As soon as February 2020, he was making the point that we cannot trust the story being told by the Chinese government. In April, he published more detailed thoughts in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal claiming that circumstantial evidence “points toward the Wuhan labs.” “Wuhan has two labs where we know bats and humans interacted. One is the Institute of Virology, eight miles from the wet market; the other is the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, barely 300 yards from the market. Both labs collect live animals to study viruses. Their researchers travel to caves across China to capture bats for this purpose. Chinese state media released a minidocumentary in mid-December following a team of Wuhan CDC researchers collecting viruses from bats in caves. The researchers fretted openly about the risk of infection.”
Senator Cotton concluded. “While the Chinese government denies the possibility of a lab leak, its actions tell a different story. The Chinese military posted its top epidemiologist to the Institute of Virology in January. In February Chairman Xi Jinping urged swift implementation of new biosafety rules to govern pathogens in laboratory settings. Academic papers about the virus’s origins are now subject to prior restraint by the government.”
As a result, Senator Cotton was immediately branded a conspiracy theorist by the mainstream media. The New York Times claimed he was repeating a “fringe” theory, saying “scientists have dismissed the suggestion that the Chinese government was behind the outbreak, but it’s the kind of tale that gains traction.” The Washington Post said he repeated a “debunked conspiracy theory,” citing experts that say “there’s no evidence the virus is man-made, and it’s ‘highly unlikely’ it is the result of an accident in the lab.” CNN said he was playing a “dangerous game,” noting that he wasn’t an infectious disease expert and that it was “odd” he was “wildly” speculating.
Now, of course, they are all singing a different tune. Nor is the mainstream media alone in changing their position on the coronavirus origin story. The good Dr. Fauci has also recently reconsidered. Last week, ironically at a self-proclaimed “Festival of Fact-checking,” he said he was “not convinced” the virus originated naturally. “No actually. 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.” He added, “Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus.”
Last year, however, he was saying the opposite. The virus most likely “evolved in nature and then jumped species” instead of being “artificially or deliberately manipulated.” he claimed that “Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.” The good doctor also clashed with Republican Senator Rand Paul over whether or not the United States actually funded the so-called “gain of function” research in China that could have led to the outbreak. He told the Senator “with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely, and completely incorrect…the NIH [National Institutes of Health] has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute.”
Perhaps needless to say, it was Dr. Fauci that was entirely incorrect. The National Institutes of Health had been funding the Wuhan Institute as late as 2019. According to FactCheck.org, “In 2014, the NIH awarded a grant to the U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance to study the risk of the future emergence of coronaviruses from bats. In 2019, the project was renewed for another five years, but it was canceled in April 2020 — three months after the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in the U.S. EcoHealth ultimately received $3.7 million over six years from the NIH and distributed nearly $600,000 of that total to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, a collaborator on the project, pre-approved by NIH.” After the clash with Senator Paul, Dr. Fauci then claimed it would have been “almost be irresponsible” to not collaborate with Chinese scientists because the 2003 SARS outbreak originated in China. “So we really had to learn a lot more about the viruses that were there, about whether or not people were getting infected with bad viruses.”
The NIH is now splitting hairs, very thin ones: Yes, they distributed grant money to an insecure Chinese facility that our own diplomats warned us about, one with a poor track record on safety, but no it wasn’t for “gain of function” research that we knew they were doing, it was for other stuff, really, trust us. This came in a statement from NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins on May 19, “neither NIH nor NIAID have ever approved any grant that would have supported ‘gain-of-function’ research.”
Ultimately, all of these sudden changes of heart prompt the question: What changed in the past month to cause such an abrupt about face? Three things, actually. First, earlier this month a group of concerned scientists signed a letter published in Science asking for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19. The scientists stated the obvious, “We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data.” Second, The Wall Street Journal uncovered that several doctors who worked at the Wuhan Institute appear to have contracted coronavirus before China had told the world it even existed.
Third, a group of House Republicans issued a report questioning the origin story. The House Intelligence Committee, or at least the Republicans on the committee, believe there is “significant and circumstantial evidence” that the coronavirus originated at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. “International efforts to discover the true source of the virus, however, have been stymied by a lack of cooperation from the People’s Republic of China. Nevertheless, significant circumstantial evidence raises serious concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak may have been a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
The report provides some basis for their belief, including that China has a “history of research lab leaks resulting in infections” with the previously mentioned warnings from US diplomats as early as 2017. Also, “several researchers in the Wuhan lab were sickened with COVID-19 symptoms” in late 2019 as reported in The Wall Street Journal. They believe that the Wuhan Institute conducted “dangerous research” without “necessary safety protocols.” The report then contrasts this with the bat origin theory, “By contrast, little circumstantial evidence has emerged to support the PRC’s claim that COVID-19 was a natural occurrence, having jumped from some other species to human,” because China has “failed to identify the original species that allegedly spread the virus to humans, which is critical to their zoonotic transfer theory.”
Finally, the report endorses the idea that the NIH may have “funded or collaborated in Gain of Function research.” They claim that such research “was published even after the U.S. government had paused these kinds of studies in the United States due to ethical concerns over their biowarfare applicability and their potential to accidentally unleash a pandemic.”
Ultimately, I’m the first to admit that we don’t know where the virus came from; we might never know given that we’re dealing with a secretive, corrupt, totalitarian regime that has no doubt destroyed relevant evidence. When I learned there was a virology institute right next to the supposed wet market, however, my Spidey-sense started tingling as that would be some coincidence in a country the size of China. I also found it exceedingly odd that no one in the media or the expert class was even the least bit concerned about this very inconvenient fact. Regardless, the simple truth is that there was no way to know for sure as early as February last year, when we’d barely had the genome in hand for a month and no investigation had been conducted.
All of this prompts the obvious question, why were the mainstream media and even public health officials making claims about the origin before the facts were even in? Nor did an obvious lack of knowledge prevent them from labeling anyone that doubted the bat origin story as conspiracy theorists. Of course, we’ve seen this same behavior pattern applied elsewhere, like anytime someone questions the 2020 election for example: Before anyone could possibly know for sure, experts assured us it was the most secure election ever and the media accused anyone saying otherwise of embracing dangerous conspiracy theories. I wonder why many conservatives have a hard time believing them now…