At least two reporters have appeared to blame former President Trump for the media’s repeated dismissal of a theory that the coronavirus might have come from a lab in China.
What they’re saying: Washington Post senior reporter Aaron Blake argued in an analysis piece published Monday that the media pushed back against the lab leak theory because the former president supported it. He defended the media and claimed they justifiably rejected the possibility of a lab leak, insinuating that they could not trust Trump and that he did not provide any evidence.
“It has become evident that some corners of the mainstream media overcorrected when it came to one particular theory from Trump and his allies: that the coronavirus emanated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, rather than naturally,” he wrote.
Blake added: “Given everything we know about how Trump handled such things, caution and skepticism were invited. That (very much warranted) caution and skepticism spilled over into some oversimplification, particularly when it came to summarizing the often more circumspect reporting.”
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman made a similar argument during her appearance on CNN, claiming that the Trump administration showed no evidence to support the claim.
“And so because of that, that made this instantly political,” she said. “I think that that was, you know, example 1,000 when the Trump administration learned that when you have burned your own credibility over and over again people are not immediately going to believe you, especially in an election year.”
A “conspiracy” theory: The mainstream media and Big Tech spent the better part of 2020 denying the possibility that the coronavirus may have originated in a Wuhan lab, describing it as “fringe” and a “conspiracy” theory. The media fact-checked such claims as false and social media companies censored these assertions from their respective platforms.
For example, in September 2020, Twitter permanently suspended Dr. Li-Meng yan, a Chinese virologist and whistleblower after she claimed that the virus was created in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Facebook censored her appearance on the Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” show where she spoke about the coronavirus.
Earlier in the year in April, Facebook fact-checked a documentary from The Epoch Times, a move that essentially reduced the story’s visibility on the platform, despite the publication making it clear that they’re not claiming that the virus originated in the Wuhan lab, but that it’s a possibility.
Here’s how the media reported on it:
“New research explores how conservative media misinformation may have intensified the severity of the pandemic,” the Washington Post wrote.
“Sen. Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins,” the New York Times wrote.
“Trump says US investigating whether coronavirus spread after China lab mishap but cites no evidence,” a USA Today article read.
“Anthony Fauci just crushed Donald Trump’s theory on the origins of the coronavirus,” CNN said.
Then came more information. The WHO investigative team that went to Wuhan to probe the origins of the virus said they couldn’t find enough evidence to make a conclusion but acknowledged that the theory could still turn out to be true. The Center for Disease and Control Rochelle Walensky also told Senators that while the chances are slim, the virus may have escaped the lab.
The Washington Post’s opinion columnist Josh Rogin reported as early as April 2020 that two State Department cables in 2018 warned of safety issues at the Wuhan lab and mentioned the work with bat coronaviruses. In January this year, the State Department said the “United States government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019 before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”
This week, a U.S. report revealed that three researchers at WIV got sick in the fall of 2019, before the first recorded case of coronavirus in Wuhan.
This prompted the media and fact-checkers to backtrack. Earlier this month, PolitiFact retracted a fact-check that denied the theory because the assertion that the virus might have been manipulated “is now more widely disputed.”
Vox on Monday added an editor’s note to a piece that claimed to debunk conspiracy theories about the virus, including the assertion that it might have originated in a lab.
“Since this piece was originally published in March 2020, scientific consensus has shifted. Now some experts say the “lab leak” theory warrants an investigation, along with the natural origin theory,” the editor’s note reads.
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.