Wuhan 'Lab Leak' Coronavirus Theory Scrutinized By Mainstream Media As 'Fringe' Is Now Confirmed As Serious Possibility

Wuhan 'Lab Leak' Coronavirus Theory Scrutinized By Mainstream Media As 'Fringe' Is Now Confirmed As Serious Possibility

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
May 25, 2021

Before the coronavirus pandemic would put the world into a standstill, the idea initially asserted by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) suggesting that the virus was accidentally leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China that the mainstream media aggressively dismissed as a "fringe" and "debunked" theory is now being treated as a serious possibility.

A U.S. intelligence report found that three researchers at a lab in Wuhan fell sick before the virus struck the world in the fall of 2019, according to new reports first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Citing current and former US officials, the Wall Street Journal reported that the intelligence gathered by "an international partner" expands on a State Department document that confirms that workers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology would fall ill with symptoms "consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness" back in November 2019.

Earlier last year, as the nation was sucked into the coverage of former President Donald Trump's first impeachment trial, Cotton was trying to sound the alarm in repeatedly warning about the origins of the novel coronavirus. At that time, no one took the virus seriously, with many dismissing the virus as the next flu.

Cotton appeared on a Fox News hit back in early Feb. 2020 to raise questions about what China was hiding by pointing out the likelihood that SARS-Cov-2 had emerged from a Chinese lab, likely the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

"We don’t have evidence that this disease originated there," Cotton said regarding the Wuhan lab, "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, and China right now is not giving evidence on that question at all."

Less responsible media outlets would then take Cotton's remarks to mock him, with first The Washington Post in Feb. 2020 publishing the story:  "Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked," to brand the Arkansas Senator's lab leak hypothesis as an "already-debunked" conspiracy theory. Others at the same time would follow WaPo headline to also publish their own story, including The New York Times who published the story: "Senator Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins," and The Daily Beast with "Sen. Tom Cotton Flogs Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory Dismissed by Actual Scientists," were aggressively reported by numerous media outlets to accuse the Arkansas Senator of promoting the most extreme version of Trump’s claim where he stated that China was withholding information about the pandemic’s origins.

Liberal TV outlets, including MSNBC host Brian Williams would continue to push the misinformation statements on air in order to attack Cotton's theory solely due to his alliance with the former president. During his program on Feb. 17, 2020, Williams heavily cited the Washington Post article to say, "Arkansas Republican Senator and loyal Trump ally Tom Cotton has waded into trouble by commenting on the coronavirus, which is proving virulent and deadly and is spreading fast. The Washington Post headline puts it this way: 'Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked.'"

Many health experts have maintained the claim that the COVID virus began circulating in Wuhan as of November 2019. Beijing authorities date the first confirmed case to Dec. 8 of that year. The theory Cotton first raised as of last year has gained creditability in the recent weeks following a World Health Organization-led investigation compiled with the help of the Chinese government left many nations dissatisfied with the strength of the intelligence reported. A repeatedly delayed joint WHO-China investigation declared the theory as "extremely unlikely" last week, but experts are now questioning the joint conclusions due to the influence of the notoriously deceitful Chinese government. The WHO's 120-page report from a visit to China praised Wuhan's labs as "well-managed" and supported Beijing's theory that the virus could have originated elsewhere and been imported.

However, a group of top scientists from around the globe is pushing back on the WHO’s conclusion that a lab leak and are now insisting the theory is "viable" and deserves "a proper investigation." In a letter published in the Journal "Science," eighteen prominent scientists, including a Harvard University epidemiologist and a Stanford University microbiologist, are now calling for a "transparent" and "data-driven" probe into the origins of the pandemic that has killed more than 3.35 million people worldwide.

"Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable," the scientists wrote in a letter published May 13 in the journal Science. "Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks."

The origins of the coronavirus would become an increasingly hot-button issue last year, with Republican lawmakers pressing federal health officials to detail what the Wuhan Institute of Virology did with grant money from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tweeted a video of previous claims he made in 2020 to prove that Republicans "were right all along."

On Friday, six GOP senators and one congressman signed a letter to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins requesting details about a 2014 moratorium on funding "gain of function research" — a study where viruses are manipulated in a lab environment to become more transmissible and harmful. The letter from the GOP lawmakers also requested more information about the lifting of the moratorium in late 2017 and whether programs and researchers linked to the Wuhan lab were granted such exceptions.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee last week before the WSJ public report said there is "significant circumstantial evidence" that the COVID virus outbreak stemmed from a leak at the Wuhan lab and is urging the Biden administration to put "more pressure on China" in order to provide the U.S. government for a "full, credible investigation" into the source of the global pandemic.

A panel report from Republicans on the House Intelligence pointed to China’s "history of research lab leaks resulting in infections," and warnings from U.S. diplomats in China as early as 2017 that the Wuhan lab was conducting "dangerous research" on coronaviruses without following "necessary safety protocols, risking the accidental outbreak of a pandemic."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the public report controversy Monday during her daily press briefing, pushing back to claim that the administration has been pressing for an international investigation led by the World Health Organization and is committed to getting to the bottom of the matter.

"An international investigation led by the World Health Organization is something that we've actually been pressing for several months in coordination with a range of partners around the world," Psaki said. "We need that data. We need that information from the Chinese government. What we can't do, and what I would caution anyone from doing, is leaping ahead of an actual international process. We don't have enough data and information to jump to a conclusion at this point in time."

"I have to say; I think the family members of the loved ones whose lives have been lost deserve accurate information data, not the jumping to a conclusion without having the information necessary to conclude what the origins are. What we do share, everyone in this country is a desire to know how this started, where it started, and prevent it from ever happening again. That's something we all share," Psaki added.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a political reporter for The Floridian covering Congress, the White House and Congressional elections.

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