A science writer for The New York Times who says her beat is COVID-19 tweeted, and then deleted, a post in which she said promotion of the theory that the virus was manufactured in a Wuhan, China lab and escaped is “racist.”
Early in the pandemic, a number of experts speculated that the virus was developed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China’s only Level 4 biohazard laboratory, and that it did not occur naturally at a local wet market where exotic foods including bats are prepared in an open-air environment.
But that theory was quickly quashed by most media outlets and social media platforms after it was initially embraced by the intelligence community and then-President Donald Trump. In addition, federal public health officials including lead immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci also publicly downplayed the theory, even though Chinese researchers early on published data appearing to claim definitively that the “lab leak” theory was true. Now that Trump’s out of office and additional evidence and reporting is lending new credence to the theory, however, it is increasingly being embraced by media and political figures who dismissed it for more than a year.
But not by NYT reporter Apoorva Mandavilli, who expressed a different take Wednesday.
“Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not here yet,” she wrote.
Later, though, Mandavilli took down the post, writing: “Ugh, I hate deleting tweets, but the reactions are… ridiculous. Lots of clown emojis (is that code beyond just calling me a clown), allusions to CCP and also: is ‘fronting corporate interests’ the new ‘pharma shill’ insult?”
Her posts were screen-grabbed and reposted by other Twitter users, including Washington Examiner investigative reporter Jerry Dunleavy.
The New York Times COVID-19 reporter deleted this take… pic.twitter.com/md4aa9aomN
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) May 26, 2021
In addition, investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald took a screenshot of the tweet and asked why referencing the virus’s potential country of origin was “racist.”
“Can someone explain to me why it’s racist to wonder if a virus escaped from a Chinese lab, but it’s not racist to insist that it infected humans because of Chinese wet markets?” he wrote, adding: “Also, isn’t the relevant question: *what happened*? Or no?”
Can someone explain to me why it's racist to wonder if a virus escaped from a Chinese lab, but it's not racist to insist that it infected humans because of Chinese wet markets? If anything, isn't the latter more racist?
Also, isn't the relevant question: *what happened*? Or no? pic.twitter.com/vSqqJnehf7
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 26, 2021
Later, after he appeared to realize who Mandavilli was, he posted another tweet acknowledging her journalistic COVID-19 beat.
“Oh my god: I didn’t realize what her job is. The NYT’s COVID reporter is saying we should stop talking about the lab leak theory — *even if it’s how COVID entered humans *– because that theory (unlike, I guess, the wet market theory) is racist. Who cares what happened: NYT,” he added.
Oh my god: I didn’t realize what her job is.
The NYT’s COVID reporter is saying we should stop talking about the lab leak theory — *even if it’s how COVID entered humans *– because that theory (unlike, I guess, the wet market theory) is racist.
Who cares what happened: NYT. pic.twitter.com/NAtI9N2mJx
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 26, 2021
While the Times science writer did not respond directly to Greenwald, she did take time to reply to other users, noting in one post that the lab leak theory is certainly plausible, even though she wants people to stop talking about it.
“Do I think it’s possible? Sure, anything is possible,” she noted.
In addition to a growing number of media personalities, Fauci himself even suggested this week there could be something to the lab leak theory. Asked by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) if it was possible China conducted “gain-of-function” research in the Wuhan lab using U.S. funding, Fauci responded, “I cannot guarantee that a grantee has not lied to us, because you never know.”
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