New York Times health reporter: Wuhan lab leak coronavirus theory has 'racist roots,' isn't 'plausible'
Biden now calling on intelligence agencies to investigate coronavirus origins
A New York Times science and health reporter tweeted Wednesday the "lab leak" coronavirus theory had "racist roots" and was not "plausible."
Apoorva Mandavilli, who covers coronavirus stories for the newspaper, tweeted, "Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not yet here." She eventually deleted it, but she didn't back off from her argument.
"A theory can have racist roots and still gather reasonable supporters along the way," she wrote to a critic of her original point. "Doesn't make the roots any less racist or the theory any more convincing, though."
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She later wrote that the notion the virus escaped from a lab was "possible" but not "plausible."
"And almost impossible to disprove, meaning it will probably not go away till people lose interest," she wrote.
Reached for comment by Fox News, she wrote, "I deleted it because it unleashed some incredibly nasty tweets and DMs. So please don't write about it."
Mandavilli's tweets come amid a media about-face on the lab leak theory, which outlets, including the Times, dismissed as a fringe or conspiracy theory last year when promoted by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Trump administration figures. Former New York Times health reporter Donald McNeil wrote last week that the theory had become "considerably stronger" over the past year.
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Some reporters have suggested the fact that the Trump administration pushed the theory last year was part of why it was initially rejected. The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler wrote Tuesday the lab theory messaging was "often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims."
The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday on three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology who grew sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report. U.S. officials are increasingly calling for a closer investigation of the virus' origins.
Critics erupted on Mandavilli on Twitter, with some expressing derision at the idea she could impartially report on the virus.
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"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?" journalist Glenn Greenwald asked.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that President Biden's call for intelligence agencies to investigate the virus' origins shows "the administration takes seriously the possibility that the virus was accidentally leaked from a lab."
Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this month at PolitiFact's United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking event that he was "not convinced" the virus originated with animals. At least three scientists who signed a letter in The Lancet last year condemning "conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin" have since said the lab theory merits investigation.
The Washington Post, which repeatedly mocked Cotton, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others last year for espousing the lab theory, published a fact-check timeline Wednesday declaring the lab theory was "suddenly" credible.
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Other figures to embrace the possibility of the theory include former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, as well as former President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.