Biden promises to release US intelligence findings on COVID origins
Biden promises to release US intelligence findings on COVID origins after their 90-day investigation into the Wuhan lab leak theory with lawmakers from both parties demanding transparency
- President Joe Biden pledged to release the report on the origins of COVID-19 that he asked intelligence agencies to work on for the next 90 days
- ‘Yes, unless there’s something I’m unaware of,’ he told reporters at Joint Base Andrews Thursday
- The White House announced Wednesday that Biden had asked his intelligence agencies to step up their efforts to get to the truth of the origins of COVID-19
- There’s been growing concern that the virus that caused a worldwide pandemic originated in a Chinese lab in Wuhan
- At the weekend fresh details emerged about how staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital treatment for COVID-like symptoms in November 2019
- The White House said the intelligence agents were divided on the two possible scenarios: laboratory leak or natural transfer in the wild
President Joe Biden pledged to release the report on the origins of COVID-19 that he asked intelligence agencies to work on for the next 90 days.
‘Yes, unless there’s something I’m unaware of,’ he told reporters at Joint Base Andrews before departing for a trip to Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday.
The White House announced Wednesday that Biden had asked his intelligence agencies to step up their efforts to get to the truth of the origins of COVID-19 amid growing concern that it emerged from a Chinese laboratory.
President Joe Biden pledged to release the intelligence report he commissioned on the origins of COVID-19 ‘unless there’s something I’m unaware of,’ he told reporters on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrew Thursday
Biden said Wednesday he would continue to press China to participate in a full, transparent investigation to find out whether its Wuhan lab (pictured) was the source of the COVID-19 pandemic
A string of senior scientists have recently admitted they may have leapt to conclusions in assuming the virus jumped from an animal host in the wild to humans and are now looking into the theory it leaked from a Wuhan lab that have been dismissed for the last 12 months.
At the weekend fresh details emerged about how staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital treatment for COVID-like symptoms in November 2019.
The result is that a theory once consigned to fringe websites, championed by the Trump administration and decried by the media has moved into the mainstream and Biden aides have ditched their skepticism to call for more investigations.
Biden defended his administration’s approach and said the intelligence agents were divided on the two possible scenarios: laboratory leak or natural transfer in the wild.
‘I have now asked the intelligence community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,’ said Biden.
‘As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China.’
He also directed national laboratories to assist with the investigation.
‘The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence,’ he said.
President Joe Biden made the pledge as he departed for Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday on board Air Force One
But he also said a final answer may never be found given the way that China refused to cooperate in the early days of an outbreak which has gone on to kill more than five million people around the world.
Even so, his statement marks a reversal for an administration that repeatedly expressed skepticism for the lab leak hypothesis.
In contrast, President Trump and his allies quickly pointed the finger at China as the pandemic spread.
In April last year, he said he had a ‘high degree of confidence’ that the novel coronavirus came from a lab and claimed to have seen evidence to support his certainty.
Yet on Tuesday it emerged that a State Department investigation into whether the Wuhan laboratory was the source of the pandemic had been shut down by the Biden administration.
Last fall, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lead an investigation to answer whether China’s biological weapons program may have played a role in the pandemic, sources told CNN on Tuesday.
Three members of staff Wuhan Institute of Virology were reported to have sought medical help for COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, adding to growing speculation that the virus escaped from the facility triggered a pandemic
The government’s most senior infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci said he could not be 100% sure of the origins of COVID-19, although he added that a natural transfer from animal to human in the wild remained the most likely explanation
And it comes as senior scientists admit they cannot be certain of the virus’s origins.
The initially pointed to previous coronavirus outbreaks, including SARS and MERS, which could all be traced to naturally occurring animal reservoirs as evidence of COVID-19’s origins.
But so far a natural host has yet to be found.
During a White House briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top infectious diseases expert, said he still believed the most likely explanation was a natural transfer to humans but that a deeper investigation is needed.
‘Because we don’t know 100 percent what the origin is, it’s imperative that we look and we do an investigation,’ he said.
The World Health Organization released a joint report with Chinese scientists in March after a team spent four weeks in Wuhan.
But its findings were criticized amid concerns that investigators were delayed and lacked access to original samples.
This week Andy Slavitt, White House coronavirus adviser, said it had failed to explain how COVID-19 first emerged.
‘We need to get to the bottom of this and we need a completely transparent process from China,’ he said.
‘We need the WHO to assist in that matter. We don’t feel like we have that now.’
The result has been fresh Republican demands for Fauci to be fired as his critics once again accuse him of flipflopping.
Their anger may have been predictable, but the figurehead for the U.S. pandemic response also came under fire from a new quarter: Chinese state media.
The editor-in-chief of The Global Times wrote a ferocious attack headlined: ‘US elites degenerate further in morality, and Fauci is one of them.’
He accused Fauci of ‘fanning a huge lie’ against China.
‘Rumors and slander against China can be seen everywhere in the US media, and politicians lie about China without any bottom line,’ he wrote.
However, senior officials have repeatedly suggested in recent weeks that they cannot be certain of COVID-19’s origins.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told senators last month: “It is absolutely accurate the intelligence community does not know exactly where, when, or how COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially, and basically components have coalesced around two alternative theories, these scenarios are it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, or it was a laboratory accident.
The White House said getting to the bottom of this pandemic would help the world prepare for the next one.
But Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre shrugged off questions about whether new evidence had emerged to prompt the fresh push.
‘Nothing has changed,’ she said during the daily White House briefing.
‘The president has asked his team to look into this back in March so this is something that has been ongoing.’
Republicans call for Dr Fauci to be fired or resign after umpteen U-turns on COVID and its origins
Republican lawmakers demanded Dr. Anthony Fauci be terminated from his role as the nation’s top infectious disease expert after he was accused of flip-flopping on key COVID-related topics like mask-wearing and the origins of the coronavirus.
House Rep. Warren Davidson, a Republican from Ohio, on Tuesday proposed the ‘FIRED Act’ – whose acronym stands for ‘Fauci Incompetence Requires Early Dismissal.’
‘Dr. Fauci is at odds with the [Centers for Disease Control],’ Davidson told Fox News.
‘He has repeatedly put political science ahead of the science on COVID-19.’
Republicans have criticized Fauci and other public health officials for telling the public to refrain from mask-wearing in the early days of the pandemic before reversing the guidance as the case count increased nationwide last year.
House Rep. Warren Davidson (seen left in December), a Republican from Ohio, on Tuesday proposed the ‘FIRED Act’ – whose acronym stands for ‘Fauci Incompetence Requires Early Dismissal.’ Dr Anthony Fauci (right) on Tuesday appeared before a House committee to discuss the budget
House Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, a Republican from Pennsylvania, told Fox News on Tuesday that the mixed messaging from Fauci was ‘nothing new.’
Fauci’s critics also seized on comments he made criticizing the decision by Republican governors of Texas and other states to lift mask mandates in March.
At the time, Fauci, other epidemiologists, and top Democrats, including President Joe Biden, blasted the decision as premature – though COVID-19 cases have continued to drop in those states as well as nationwide.
House Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, a Republican from Pennsylvania, told Fox News on Tuesday that the mixed messaging from Fauci was ‘nothing new.’
‘He has been wrong, intentionally deceptive, and inconsistent throughout this entire pandemic,’ Reschenthaler said.
‘A few examples of Fauci’s failures include: claiming there was very little risk to Americans in January of 2020, opposing President Trump’s China travel ban then crediting it with saving lives, and wrongly predicting an explosion of cases in Texas after Gov. Abbott lifted the state mask mandates.
‘It is long past time for Dr. Fauci to stop talking to the American public. Fauci should resign or be fired immediately.’
Earlier on Tuesday, Fauci defended the United States’ ‘modest’ and ‘very respectable’ funding of the Wuhan laboratory – which is now at the center of speculation as a possible source of the COVID-19 virus.
Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), appeared before a Congressional budget committee on Tuesday.
He defended allocating $600,000 to a group called EcoHealth Alliance, which then paid the Wuhan Institute of Virology to study the risk that bat coronaviruses could infect humans.
Under the terms of the funding, the money could not be spend on ‘gain of function’ research – a controversial practice which explores how viruses mutate and become more transmissible or more dangerous.
Fauci said the research was essential, pointing out that the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s was eventually traced back to bats.
‘I would have been almost a dereliction of our duty if we didn’t study this, and the only way you can study these things is you’ve got to go where the action is,’ he said.
‘You don’t want to study bats in Fairfax County, Virginia, to find out what the animal-human interface is that might lead to a jumping of species.
‘So we had a modest collaboration with very respectable Chinese scientists who were world experts on coronavirus, and we did that through a sub-grant from a larger grant to EcoHealth.’
US liberal media’s COVID U-turn: A year after TRASHING theory that COVID originated from a Wuhan lab because Trump supported the suggestion – America’s woke mainstream news outlets suddenly start asking if it’s true!
The liberal media have finally conceded that COVID-19 may have originated in a Wuhan laboratory – after a year spent ridiculing the suggestion.
The first fatality from COVID-19 was reported by Chinese state media on January 11, 2020, when a 61-year-old man who was a regular customer at a market in Wuhan died. The first confirmed case in the United States was 10 days later, when a man returned to Washington state from Wuhan.
Within a week, on January 26, 2020, the first article blaming the Wuhan Institute of Virology for the outbreak was published, in The Washington Times. Yet most mainstream media disputed the claims, dismissing them outright or even decrying them as racist.
When Donald Trump, on May 1, 2020, said he had ‘a high degree of confidence’ that the virus came from Wuhan, the New York Times, CNN, and NPR were quick to mock his comments.
CNN, which by the end of the Trump administration was brazen in its hostility to the president and his advisors, was almost gleeful in its mockery of the idea that the virus could have come from a laboratory.
The Washington Post, New York Times, and NPR were equally dismissive of suggestions that the virus could have come from a laboratory.
The Washington Post published a fact checker piece on May 25 saying the theory had ‘suddenly’ become credible after it was repeatedly brought up. It came after a year of naysaying from the liberal media who never accepted that it might be true
There is outrage over the fact that for the last year, the theory has been widely discredited by the media in America when it may explain the entire pandemic
Some outlets, such as the Huffington Post, even branded any suggestion the virus could have stemmed from a lab as a ‘toxic conspiracy theory.’
Few were able to suggest that COVID-19 could have stemmed from a research facility without backlash but that didn’t stop some media, including the Daily Mail, from questioning the narrative.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was also clear in demanding an investigation into whether it could have escaped from the lab.
Finally, in the past few months, came the first signs that opinion was beginning to change.
In January, a World Health Organization (WHO) report only served to raise more questions after Beijing strictly controlled an on-site visit and who the researchers compiling the report spoke to. The WHO team was only allowed three hours inside the Wuhan lab and was unable to examine any of the Wuhan institute’s safety logs or records of testing on its staff.
China’s actions led to Biden’s White House calling for greater transparency.
Even Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said that the visit was inconclusive, adding that ‘all hypotheses are open’ and warranted future study.
By May 11, the leading public health expert in the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, had accepted that the idea of the virus escaping from a lab had been too quickly dismissed.
Asked whether the virus originated naturally, Fauci replied that 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.
‘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.’
Fauci’s revelation came as a shock to many on the left who have accepted China’s narrative that coronavirus spread from a wet market since the virus first emerged.
Of course, China continues to insist that COVID-19 did not originate in the Wuhan lab.
‘The U.S. keeps concocting inconsistent claims and clamoring to investigate labs in Wuhan,’ China’s foreign ministry said in a written statement on May 24. This fully shows that some people in the U.S. don’t care about facts and truth.’
On May 1, 2020, CNN reported that Trump had ‘contradicted’ the intel 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 Thursday 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.
‘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.”
“Yes, I have,” Trump said when asked whether he’s seen evidence that would suggest the virus originated in the lab. Later, asked why he was confident in that assessment, Trump demurred.
“I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that,” the report read.
Then on May 5, 2020, their editor-at-large Chris Cillizza wrote a scathing attack on the suggestion, entitled: Anthony Fauci just crushed Donald Trump’s theory on the origins of the coronavirus.
MAY 1 2020: On May 1, 2020, CNN reported that Trump had ‘contradicted’ the intel community by claiming to have seen evidence the virus came from a lab. They pointed to how rare it was for the intelligence community to make a statement
MAY 5 2020: Chris Cillizza wrote an opinion piece saying Fauci had ‘crushed Trump’s theory’ about the origins of the virus
OCTOBER 2020: CNN published another report about how the theory came from a ‘shoddy’ paper that was backed by Bannon. It claimed there was no proof whatsoever behind the theory
‘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.’
Cillizza’s article followed on from one four days earlier, headlined: ‘Trump contradicts US intel community by claiming he’s seen evidence coronavirus originated in Chinese lab’.
Yet fast forward almost a year, and the tone had greatly changed.
Dr Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, spoke on March 26 this year 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.
MARCH 2021: The former CDC head, Dr Robert Redfield, on CNN in March 2021, saying he believes the virus came from a lab. He told the reporter: ‘I am of the point of view, I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, escaped. 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 a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker.’ CNN called it ‘controversial’
MAY 2021: On May 24, a new report was which said US intelligence had found there was some evidence the virus came from a Wuhan 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,’ he 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 23, The Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers from Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report
The following day the paper reported on a mysterious mine around 80 miles outside Wuhan where, in April 2012, six miners here fell sick after entering the mine to clear bat guano. Three of them died.
Chinese scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology were called in to investigate and, after taking samples from bats in the mine, identified several new coronaviruses. Yet they were not forthcoming with their information.
On May 24, CNN admitted that there may be more to the Wuhan lab than initially believed. They published an update: New information on Wuhan researchers’ illness furthers debate on pandemic origins
But Cilizza is still standing by his earlier claims it isn’t.
He wrote an opinion piece on why Dr. Fauci was ‘hedging’ on the subject, and said just because Fauci said he was no longer ‘convinced’ of the origins, it didn’t mean he thought it came from a lab.
New York Times
When any Trump-supporting lawmakers said that the Wuhan lab theory merited further exploration, the New York Times was quick to dismiss their claim.
In the first month of the pandemic they seized on questions raised by Tom Cotton, the Republican senator for Arkansas.
‘We don’t have evidence that this disease originated there,’ Cotton said.
‘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.’
His words, on February 17, 2020, would prove prescient – yet the New York Times headlined its coverage: Senator Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins.
By April 30, 2020, the paper was describing the efforts from the Trump administration to get to the bottom of the virus’ origins as a political witch hunt.
‘Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, according to current and former American officials,’ the paper reported.
FEBRUARY 2020: The New York Times was initially adamant (left) that the Wuhan lab leak theory was a nonsense invented by Trump, but by 2021 was accepting that opinions varied (right)
APRIL 2020: Another NYT report which said Trump officials had been pushing spies to find evidence behind the theory
‘The effort comes as President Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic.’
The story was headlined: Trump Officials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs
Yet this month two former science reporters at the paper – Nicholas Wade, who retired in 2012, and Donald McNeil, who left earlier this year amid a row about his language while guiding a tour of Peru – both said they now felt it was possible, indeed perhaps likely, that the virus came from a lab.
‘In early spring 2020, I reported an article for The New York Times on which I put the tentative headline: ‘New Coronavirus Is ‘Clearly Not a Lab Leak,’ Scientists Say,” McNeil wrote on Medium.
‘It never ran.’
He said that the paper was sharply divided over whether to believe the Trump officials saying it was a lab leak, or the scientists saying it wasn’t.
‘We still do not know the source of this awful pandemic. We may never know,’ he wrote.
‘But the argument that it could have leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology or a sister lab in Wuhan has become considerably stronger than it was a year ago, when the screaming was so loud that it drowned out serious discussion.
McNeil, who left The New York Times earlier this year, said that China’s ‘lack of candor’ was ‘disturbing’. McNeil was fired by the Times after it emerged he’d used the N-word during a conversation with students on a NYT-run trip. He published an article on May 17 about the subject. He said he’d been told ‘overwhelmingly’ by scientists that it did not come from a lab
MAY 2021: Now the Times is repeating scientists’ calls for an open mind on the theory
‘And China’s lack of candor is disturbing.’
Wade came to the same conclusion.
‘Neither the natural emergence nor the lab escape hypothesis can yet be ruled out. There is still no direct evidence for either. So no definitive conclusion can be reached,’ he wrote.
‘That said, the available evidence leans more strongly in one direction than the other. Readers will form their own opinion.
‘But it seems to me that proponents of lab escape can explain all the available facts about SARS2 considerably more easily than can those who favor natural emergence.’
Reporters for an article published on April 30, 2020, provided a nuanced and in-depth analysis of the Wuhan laboratory’s work, and emphasized the risks involved.
Yet their headline read: Chinese lab conducted extensive research on deadly bat viruses, but there is no evidence of accidental release.
The following day, the dismissive tone continued: Was the new coronavirus accidentally released from a Wuhan lab? It’s doubtful.
In May 2020 The Washington Post said it was ‘doubtful’ that the virus came from a lab in a story from its Fact Checker section
By May 24 this year, the paper was very close to admitting that they had been blinkered.
‘Given everything we know about how Trump handled such things, caution and skepticism were invited,’ wrote Aaron Blake, a senior political reporter at the paper.
‘That (very much warranted) caution and skepticism spilled over into some oversimplification, particularly when it came to summarizing the often more circumspect reporting.’
He admitted: ‘We might never truly know the truth.’
Now the Washington Post is urging WHO to carry out an investigation into what happened to determine if it did come from a lab
MAY 2021: Journalist Aaron Blake wrote that it is ‘vexing’ as a subject. He said: ‘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. It’s also true that many criticisms of the coverage are overwrought and that Trump’s and his allies’ claims invited and deserved skepticism.’
As concern was mounting about the virus in the spring of 2020, The Huffington Post was rapidly ridiculing all question of its origins.
‘A Toxic ‘Infodemic’: The Viral Spread Of COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories,’ they headlined a story on April 7, 2020.
Yet a little over a year later, on May 24 of this year, the site followed up on the Wall Street Journal’s report into the hospitalization of the Wuhan lab workers in 2019, and the issues that this raised.
‘Wuhan Researchers Were Hospitalized With COVID-19 Symptoms Pre-Pandemic: Reports,’ they wrote.
APRIL 2020: The Huffington Post was initially skeptical (left) about alternative ideas surrounding COVID and called it an ‘infodemic’
MAY 2021: Now, like every other outlet, Huff Po is broadening its reporting on the theory
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.’
The radio news network was determined to prove that there was no credibility to the Wuhan lab leak theory, and produced a series of ‘explainers’ insisting that COVID-19 was transmitted from animals to humans.
‘Where Did This Coronavirus Originate? Virus Hunters Find Genetic Clues In Bats,’ they reported on April 15, 2020.
APRIL 2020: NPR was initially dismissive of suggestions that the virus leaked from a lab (left), but by May 2021 was covering the increasing speculation
MARCH 2021: After a WHO report said the theory was gathering more steam, the headlines became more open minded
Yet a little over a year later, NPR was following the WHO’s report – and its worrying conclusions – with interest.
‘Theory That COVID Came From A Chinese Lab Takes On New Life In Wake Of WHO Report,’ they concluded.
On March 31, they reported: Calls For An Open Investigation Into The Possibility COVID-19 Leaked From A Lab.
Among those watching the evolving news lines was Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state.
‘Over a year ago, I told @MarthaRaddatz that the Wuhan Virus most likely came from a lab leak,’ he tweeted on May 20.
‘She stopped just short of offering me a tin hat. The CCP said I was an enemy of mankind,’ he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.
‘And now? Well, now, the Left wing media is scrambling to get on the side of the truth.’
Source: Read Full Article