Robert Redfield, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Vanity Fair he received death threats after an appearance on CNN in March where he said he believed COVID-19 may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.
He told the magazine that "death threats flooded his inbox" from "prominent scientists," some of whom were former friends.
"I was threatened and ostracized because I proposed another hypothesis," he said. "I expected it from politicians. I didn’t expect it from science."
Redfield made the comments months before it was considered acceptable to publically question the lab-leak theory. He told Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the interview that he still thinks "the most likely ideology 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."
The Twitter account for CNN's "New Day" framed Redfield's theory as lacking "clear evidence."CNN's digital writeup of the interview called Redfield's remark "a controversial theory without evidence."
The Vanity Fair report said that back in January 2020, Redfield received a troubling message from Dr. George Fu Gao, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gao warned him about sickened individuals in Wuhan. The report said "Redfield immediately offered to send a team of specialists to investigate" because he had suspicions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If a team found antibodies in blood samples of workers there, that would be convincing evidence. China refused, he said.
After months of minimizing that possibility of a lab leak as a fringe theory, the Biden administration joined the worldwide push for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.
Richard Dearlove, the former head of the UK’s MI6 intelligence agency, told the Telegraph this week, "We don’t know that’s what’s happened, but a lot of data have probably been destroyed or made to disappear so it’s going to be difficult to prove definitely the case for a ‘gain-of-function chimera’ being the cause of the pandemic."
Fox News' Michael Ruiz the Associated Press contributed to this report