When former President Donald Trump said early in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that he had “a high degree of confidence” that the virus escaped from a lab, the mainstream media quickly criticized his comments.
On May 1 last year, CNN reported that Trump had “contradicted” the intelligence community by claiming to have seen evidence the virus came from a lab.
“President Donald Trump contradicted a rare on-the-record statement from his own intelligence community by claiming that he has seen evidence that gives him a ‘high degree of confidence’ the novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, but declined to provide details to back up his assertion,” CNN reported.
“The comments undercut a public statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued just hours earlier which stated no such assessment has been made and continues to ‘rigorously examine’ whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”
Four days later, CNN‘s editor-at-large Chris Cillizza attacked Trump’s assertion in his piece titled: “Anthony Fauci just crushed Donald Trump’s theory on the origins of the coronavirus.”
“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,” Cillizza wrote.
“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. Especially because, outside of Trump and his immediate inner circle, most people in a position to know are very, very skeptical of the Trump narrative that the virus came out of a lab – whether accidentally or on purpose.”
The Washington Post, New York Times and NPR were equally dismissive of suggestions that the virus could have come from a laboratory. The Huffington Post even branded any suggestion the virus could have stemmed from a lab as a “toxic conspiracy theory.” (Related: The biggest media lies about the coronavirus: Origins, treatments and vaccines.)
On April 30, 2020, the Washington Post published an article headlined “Chinese lab conducted extensive research on deadly bat viruses, but there is no evidence of accidental release;” also on April 30, 2020, the New York Times described the efforts from the Trump administration to get to the bottom of the virus’s origins as a political witch hunt; on April 23, 2020, NPR stated: “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;” and on April 7, 2020, the Huffington Post published a story headlined “A Toxic ‘Infodemic’: The Viral Spread Of COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories.”
The narrative started to change in recent months. The left-leaning mainstream media have finally conceded that COVID-19 may have originated in a Wuhan lab. They are now publishing stories suggesting that the virus originated from a Wuhan lab and interviewed people who believe the lab-leak theory.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN‘s chief medical correspondent, spoke on March 26 to Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC). Redfield said that he had concluded the virus escaped from a lab.
“I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, you know, escaped,” Redfield said. “Now, other people don’t believe that, that’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out. It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in the laboratory to infect the laboratory worker.”
On May 24, CNN admitted that there may be more to the Wuhan lab than initially believed. The network published an update: “New information on Wuhan researchers’ illness furthers debate on pandemic origins.”
A day earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers from Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care.
On April 30, the Washington Post published an opinion piece urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to investigate what happened to determine if the virus did come from a lab.
Earlier this month, two former science reporters of the New York Times – Nicholas Wade and Donald McNeil – both said they now felt it was possible, likely even, that the virus came from a lab.
On May 24, the Huffington Post followed up on the Wall Street Journal‘s report on the hospitalization of the Wuhan lab workers in 2019. “Wuhan Researchers Were Hospitalized With COVID-19 Symptoms Pre-Pandemic: Reports,” its headline said.
NPR shifted its narrative as early as March 31 with a report headlined “Calls For An Open Investigation Into The Possibility COVID-19 Leaked From A Lab.”
In January, a World Health Organization (WHO) report only served to raise more questions after China strictly controlled an on-site visit and who the researchers compiling the report spoke to. (Related: WHO backtracks on earlier statement that the coronavirus did not emerge from a Chinese lab.)
The WHO team was only allowed three hours inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and was unable to examine any of the institute’s safety logs or records of testing on its staff. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said that the visit was inconclusive and that “all hypotheses are open” and warranted future study.
Fauci, whose view on the origins of the disease matters a whole lot more than Trump’s according to CNN‘s Cillizza, said in a recent Senate hearing that the “possibility certainly exists” that COVID-19 virus might have escaped from a Wuhan lab.
Asked whether the virus originated naturally, Fauci said he wants to look closer into the matter. “I am not convinced about that,” he said. “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.”
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