A scientist who has recently signed onto a belief that the COVID-19 pandemic stemmed from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan city says she and some of her research colleagues considered the possibility early on but refused to go public with their suspicions to avoid being “associated” with then-President Donald Trump.
Last month the scientist, Alina Chan, and 18 others published an open letter in the journal Science seeking a comprehensive investigation into the origin of the virus to include consideration of the so-called ‘lab-leak theory’ which Trump promoted early on in the pandemic. The Wuhan Institute of Virology, China’s only Level 4 bioresearch facility, has been identified as the most likely source of the virus by several former Trump officials as well.
The letter helped spur new interest in the possibility of a lab leak after it was dismissed for more than a year as a baseless conspiracy theory by much of the government medical establishment — including lead U.S. immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci — and the legacy media. Discussion of the leak theory was also suppressed or censored outright by the big tech social media platforms.
Instead, Fauci and most other scientists embraced the theory that the virus originated in an animal — most likely a particular type of bat — and then made the transition to humans. In their letter, Chan and the others said that the scientific evidence surrounding the origin of the novel coronavirus remained mostly the same but they added that “the context and circumstances of the origin debate have changed,” according to NBC.
Chan said that among the more notable changes in “context” was the fact that Trump is no longer president.
She told NBC that a number of researchers and scientists did not want to talk publicly about the potentiality of the virus escaping the Wuhan lab because they were more concerned about being associated with “racist” language surrounding COVID-19 following the former president’s use of phrases like “Wuhan virus” and “China virus.”
“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,” Chan told the broadcaster.
Supporters of the former president, as well as Trump himself, had argued that the term wasn’t racist but rather descriptive to COVID’s origin, regardless of cause, much like the “Spanish flu” or the 1977 “Russian flu.”
Chan went on to note that while it is still possible to determine that COVID-19 evolved naturally, “There’s precedents for lab leaks, the genetic data could swing either way and the epidemiological data, which is how it unfolded in Wuhan, can also swing either way.”
Chan is just the latest scientific researcher to admit that she and others were reluctant to embrace the lab-leak theory because of Trump.
In May, J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told NPR that scientists suspicious of the natural evolution theory nevertheless “recoiled” at embracing the lab leak because of the former president’s early endorsement.
“[It] got jumbled up together with some of the more crazy aspects of Trump, and scientists recoiled against that and went in favor of the theory that COVID-19 had emerged out of a natural process versus a lab escape,” he said.
Aaron Blake, a senior reporter at The Washington Post, said as much last month as well.
“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,” he noted.
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