Senior New York Times editor refused to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, dismissing the possibility of a lab leak as a conspiracy theory motivated by racism, according to an editor for the Spectator who cites two “well-placed” Times sources.
The Spectator’s Dominic Green reported a veteran Times employee said he suggested to a senior editor that the paper investigate the origins of COVID-19.
“I was told it was dangerous to run a piece about the origins of the coronavirus,” the employee said, adding there was resistance to running anything that could suggest that COVID-19 was manmade or had leaked accidentally from a lab.
Green noted that the at the time, Donald Trump was running for reelection and calling SARS-CoV-2 the “Chinese virus.” Then-Secretary of state Mike Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week” in May 2020 that he had seen “enormous evidence” that the virus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
In addition, a few weeks later the former head of Britain’s MI6 spying service, Sir Richard Dearlove, said he subscribed to the theory that the virus is “an engineered escapee from the Wuhan Institute.”
Nevertheless, Green’s sources said the senior Times editors dismissed any questioning of the WHO’s now-discredited claim as conspiracist or even “racist.”
A second Times insider who was in a senior position also proposed an investigation but was rebuffed.
“The fact that Trump embraced it, of course, also made it a no-go,” the source said.
The first source confirmed “the idea was considered dangerous.”
Green noted revenue from China “was an integral part of the Times’s business model.”
Last year, it was reported the paper received millions of dollars from China Daily and other Chinese government-controlled outlets for publishing “advertorials” promoting the communist regime’s propaganda.
Green said that instead of “doing what journalists are supposed to do — ask questions — the Times led the charge in stigmatizing debate about COVID-19’s origins as a ‘fringe theory.'”
In a February 2020 tweet, Alexandra Stevenson, the Times’s Hong Kong reporter, mocked people who suggested the pandemic originated in a lab.
“It’s the kind of conspiracy once reserved for the tinfoil hatters,” she wrote. “But Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon talks about it. So does the billionaire fugitive Guo Wengui. On Sunday, it got its Capitol Hill debut when Senator Tom Cotton repeated it.”
It’s the kind of conspiracy once reserved for the tinfoil hatters. But Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon talks about it. So does the billionaire fugitive Guo Wengui. On Sunday, it got its Capitol Hill debut when Senator Tom Cotton repeated it. https://t.co/ZFqwGdxN9q
— Alexandra Stevenson (@jotted) February 17, 2020
“Not any more,” Green wrote. “So, did the Times distance itself from the lab-leak story because its management hated Donald Trump? Or was its notion of the national interest influenced by its business interests in China?”
Google: Yeah, we censored the lab-leak theory
In June, the head of Google’s health division admitted at a Wall Street Journal forum that the Big Tech giant censored information about the possibility that the novel coronavirus escaped from a laboratory in China, arguing it was for the good of its users. The search giant didn’t want to “lead people down pathways that we would not find to be authoritative information.”
Feinburg’s information came from the U.S.-based British zoologist Peter Daszak, who received funding from Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease to conduct research on bat coronaviruses in collaboration with Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
In February 2020, Daszak organized a letter published in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet stating there was no possibility the virus came from a lab in Wuhan, dismissing the idea as a “conspiracy theory.”
Also in June, one of 18 scientists who published a letter acknowledging the plausibility of the coronavirus lab-leak theory said she and her colleauges didn’t speak out sooner because President Trump promoted that possibility for the origin of the pandemic.
“At the time, it was scarier to be associated with Trump and to become a tool for racists, so people didn’t want to publicly call for an investigation into lab origins,”said Alina Chan in an interview with NBC News.
Chan is a postdoctoral associate at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University who specializes in genetic engineering.
On its website, NBC titled its Wednesday story about the interview “The science around the lab leak theory hasn’t changed. But here’s why some scientists have.”
Chan said there had been trepidation among some scientists about publicly discussing the lab leak hypothesis for fear that their words could be misconstrued or used to support racist rhetoric about how the coronavirus emerged. Trump fueled accusations that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research lab in the city where the first Covid-19 cases were reported, was connected to the outbreak, and on numerous occasions he called the pathogen the “Wuhan virus” or “kung flu.”
One year ago, at the White House, Trump was asked by a reporter: “Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this virus?”
“Yes, I have. Yes, I have,” Trump replied. “And I think the World Health Organization [WHO] should be ashamed of themselves because they’re like the public relations agency for China.”
Theory ‘suddenly beecame credible’
The Washington Post had a similar explanation for the sudden openness to the lab-leak theory in a story in May titled “Timeline: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible.”.
The author, Glenn Kessler, who writes the Post’s “Fact Checker” column, said that in “recent months the idea that [the virus] emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – once dismissed as a ridiculous conspiracy theory – has gained new credence.”
He said the Trump administration’s “messaging was often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims.”
Trump, however, argued he was using the conventional nomenclature regarding pandemics, based on their place of origin, such as the “Hong Kong flu.” His use of the terms China and Wuhan, he repeatedly emphasized, was in reference to the Chinese Communist Party, charging the government was engaged in a deadly and costly cover-up.
The Wall Street Journal reported that when Trump began pushing the lab hypothesis last year, other governments that could have helped press for a lab investigation distanced themselves from the administration, according to Andrew Bremberg, who at the time was the U.S. ambassador to the World Health Organization.
“It was like an overnight shift,” he said. “When the president first touched this, they shut down.”
The letter by Chan and others published by the journal Science followed an 11,000-word breakthrough analysis in early May by Cambridge-educated science journalist Nicholas Wade, a former New York Times columnist and editor for the journals Science and Nature.
Wade has concluded that the circumstantial evidence points overwhelmingly to a lab leak.
About 10 days after Wade’s analysis was published, White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted in an interview that the lab-leak theory was plausible.
Fauci insisted in an interview Wednesday that he’s always urged people to be open to the lab-leak theory of the origin of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
But he clearly denounced the theory until shortly after the publication of Wade’s analysis. And Fauci was personally thanked for dismissing the lab-leak theory by Peter Daszak, the virologist whose controversial research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was funded by Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID.
“Look, we’ve always said people should keep an open mind about the lab-leak theory,” Fauci told the CBS show “This Morning” on Wednesday.
But an interview in May 2020 with National Geographic magazine typified his postion over the past year, saying the scientific evidence “is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated.”
“Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species,” he told the magazine.
Two months after Daszak published his letter in The Lancet mocking anyone who espoused the lab-leak theory, Fauci received an email from Daszak thanking him for backing the natural origin theory.
“I just wanted to say a personal thank you on behalf of our staff and collaborators, for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for Covid-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Daszak wrote.
Dr. Fauci on COVID lab leak theory: “We’ve always said ‘keep an open mind and continue to look.’ So I think it’s a bit of a distortion to say that we deliberately suppressed that.” pic.twitter.com/20VuUBHt2Y
— The Recount (@therecount) June 16, 2021
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