A remarkable twist in a tragedy, still ongoing, with effects that have transformed this country forever: just days before authorities reported the first cases of the coronavirus in Wuhan, a top inspector at the World Health Organization sat for an interview that was broadcast on YouTube.
The inspector was a man called Peter Daszak. He spoke about his research with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which had been going on for more than 15 years. In the interview, Daszak also discussed his nonprofit organization, which had received millions from the U.S. government. Daszak channeled a substantial percentage of that money to the lab in Wuhan, which he described as, "world-class lab of the highest standards." Some of that work, paid for by American taxpayers, went to something called "gain-of-function research." It involved manipulating viruses in a laboratory to make them more transmissible and more deadly. In his YouTube interview, Peter Daszak spoke freely about all of this. At the time, he had no reason not to. Outside of a handful of diplomats, no one had raised concerns about the kind of research into bat viruses, very dangerous research it turns out, that was taking place in Wuhan. According to Peter Daszak, his research, and the grant money that supported it, was necessary to create a vaccine to prevent the next global pandemic. Daszak even explained how easy it is to manipulate a coronavirus.
DASZAK: Coronavirus is a pretty good…You can manipulate them in the lab pretty easily. It’s spike protein. Spike protein drives a lot of what happens with the coronavirus, zoonotic risk. So you can get the sequence, build the protein. And we worked with Ralph Barrack at UNC to do this. Insert into a backbone of another virus and then do some work in the lab.
"You can manipulate them pretty easily" in a lab. That recorded on December 9, 2019. It wasn’t long before Peter Daszak stopping giving interviews about his lab experiments. People were starting to ask uncomfortable questions. Wasn’t there an advanced virology lab with a history of sloppy containment protocols, very close to where the first out outbreak occurred? Well yes there was. But Peter Daszak didn’t want to talk to about that. So he and other bureaucrats at the World Health Organization came up with an alternative explanation for the pandemic.
The virus, they told the world, had most likely emerged from an exotic mammal that form some reason was being sold in a seafood market in Wuhan. That’s what happened. The media bought that explanation. Later we discovered that was not true. There was never any evidence that COVID infections originated in a pangolin eaten for food.
The locals in Wuhan laughed at that idea. Peter Daszak didn’t apologize. He just kept deflecting attention from the lab.
In April, he told the show DemocracyNow that, "The idea that this virus escaped from a lab is just pure baloney. It’s simply not true. I’ve been working with that lab for 15 years. They’re some of the best scientists in the world."
Daszak has pushed that line ever since. Relentlessly.
Last summer, he wrote an op-ed in The Guardian entitled, "Ignore the conspiracy theories: scientists know Covid-19 wasn't created in a lab." Then made the point on Twitter repeatedly.
DASZAK: "[Gain-of-function] research has nothing to do with the origin of COVID unless you believe the conspiracy theories. Why mix the two together if the virus came from bats, which is what all the evidence suggests?"
Almost every media outlet in this country dutifully repeated Daszak's claims as fact. As early as January, National Public Radio reported, "A wet market Wuhan, China, is catching the blame as the probable source of the current coronavirus outbreak that's sweeping the globe." That was fast. It was a few days into the pandemic, and it wasn’t clear that NPR had sent anyone to the ground in Wuhan, but somehow they knew exactly where the virus came from half a world away in central China.
National Geographic, famous for its expeditions, also determined, somehow, that the issue was settled. "Wet markets launched the coronavirus," they wrote. "Here's what you need to know."
So, the investigative reporters were satisfied with no investigation. But some people still had questions. One of them was Alina Chan, who’s a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT. Chan noticed something odd about the coronavirus. Its genome hadn't changed much over time, even though it, the virus, had undergone trillions of replications. That’s strange. Normally, viruses that jump from animals to human have to adapt quickly to their human hosts. That's what the last SARS virus did, in 2003. Early-stage SARS viruses looked very different from SARS viruses later in the pandemic. But this coronavirus wasn't behaving that way. In fact, it seemed like it was custom-built for human transmission.
When Chan published a paper on her findings, Peter Daszak attacked her to any reporter who would listen. He called Chan's conclusions "preposterous" and a "conspiracy theory." Most media organizations followed suit, and the story went away.
After all, Alina Chan was just one molecular biologist. What did she know? She was easy enough to ignore.
That's, of course, exactly what happened to a Chinese virologist, Dr. Li-Meng Yang, whom we spoke to on this show. Yang was working in Wuhan in the early days of the pandemic, but the American media dismissed her as a, nut, a conspiracy theorist. There’s nothing to see here. Go away, crazy Chinese lady. And so she did.
But going forward, it may be much more difficult to dismiss this story. On Sunday, the former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, told CNN that based on everything he knows, he too believes the coronavirus likely came from the lab in Wuhan.
REDFIELD: I am of the point of view that I still think 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.
It’s hard to dismiss Robert Redfield as a QAnon enthusiast or a lunatic. He’s not. Redfield is a former Army officer who has spent his life studying virology. That doesn't mean he's always right about everything, and in fact, he’s often been wrong during this pandemic. But it does mean that what he says is worth assessing carefully. That's supposed to be what journalists do for a living. They look into claims that have some merit, not proven, but should be looked into. Especially claims that have enormous implications for this country.
But that's not what happened. The scientists over at MSNBC and CNN -- the same people who silenced Alina Chan got to work immediately.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN: Former CDC director, Robert Redfield, told our own Sanjay Gupta in a new CNN documentary, that he believes COVID-19 originated from a lab in Wuhan, even though, obviously, there has been no formal evidence to support the theory.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, CBS: You know, the lab-leak theory doesn't seem like a plausible theory unless you aggregate the biggest collection of coronaviruses and put them in a lab.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC: The theory that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. But tonight Dr. Anthony Fauci tells national geographic that, "This virus could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated."
CHRIS HAYES MSNBC: Both scientist and U.S. intelligence community agree, that this virus was not man made. That is not a possibility it came from a natural source, it didn’t come from a lab…A lot of people on the right love that phrase "escape from the lab" because it sounds like something from Marvel movie or comic book. It sounds like they are talking about a man made virus that China was weaponizing that got out of control.
So scientists and the U.S. intelligence community are unanimous: it did not come from a lab. What’s so interesting, of course, is we don’t know. There isn’t conclusive evidence in either direction. So why were these self-appointed TV doctors and talking heads instantly making it political and instantly claiming something they can’t prove. The New York Times immediately published a hit piece entitled, "Ex-CDC Director Favors Debunked Covid-19 Origin Theory." According to the Times, "intelligence agencies ... [have] no evidence that the coronavirus had escaped from the lab."
That’s not exactly true. It’s not a settled question. Last April, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement noting that the intelligence community has not ruled out a leak from the lab in Wuhan.
Intelligence officials said that they will, "continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan." As recently as just last month, the Director of National Intelligence stood by that statement.
So, why are so many trying to dismiss these claims out of hand, as if they know? Why are they trying to make the former CDC director be quiet? Part of the answer, of course: to protect China. The World Health Organization is funded by China, and they’re certainly working hard to do that. This week, the WHO Released what it called a "report" on the origins of the coronavirus. There was only one researcher based in the United States who participated in the WHO’s investigation into the origin of the virus. Guess who it was? Peter Daszak. Surprise, surprise.
Now guess what Daszak and his colleagues discovered in their "investigation"? A lot of Chinese innocence. In the WHO’s 120-page report on the origins of the coronavirus, only two pages were devoted to the possibility the virus may have come from a lab.
"Although rare, laboratory accidents do happen, and different laboratories around the world are working with bat coronaviruses," the report admits. And yes, it says, "The Wuhan CDC laboratory moved on 2nd December 2019 to a new location near the [wet] market. Such moves can be disruptive for the operations of any laboratory."
But don't get the wrong idea, says the WHO. It is "extremely unlikely" the virus came from a lab. Why is it so unlikely, exactly?
"There is no record of viruses closely related to [the coronavirus] in any laboratory before December 2019, or genomes that in combination could provide a SARS-CoV-2 genome."
In other words, we didn’t find a paper trail because China didn’t leave one.
But, the WHO would like you to know, if anyone could keep deadly viruses from escaping into the rest of the world, it’s the Wuhan Institute of Virology. "The three laboratories in Wuhan working with either [coronavirus] diagnostics and/or [coronavirus] isolation and vaccine development all had high quality biosafety level facilities that were well-managed," the report read.
Case closed. By the way, this is contradicted by first-hand testimony of American diplomats who went into the lab and said "wow, this looks dangerous." But according to the WHO, China and the World Health Organization did nothing wrong, so stop asking questions. And yet it’s interesting that people won’t stop. Some people are continuing to ask. On Sunday, a former national security official told CBS that the WHO report has all the credibility of a North Korean evening news broadcast.
Jamie Metzl, served in the Clinton administration and then the WHO advisory committee, can’t be described as a right-winger. But this was too much, and Jamie Metzl said so.
METZL: I wouldn't really call what's happened now an investigation. It's essentially a highly-chaperoned, highly-curated study tour…Everybody around the world is imagining this is some kind of full investigation. It’s not. This group of experts only saw what the Chinese government wanted them to see…It was agreed first that China would have veto power over who even got to be on the mission…WHO agreed to that…Imagine if we have asked the Soviet Union to do a co-investigation of Chernobyl. It doesn't really make sense.
So why are so many people in positions of authority, including the so-called scientific community, so adamant that there’s nothing to see here?
Here’s one suggestion: last year, Richard Ebright, a microbiologist at Rutgers, sat for an interview with Boston Magazine. He explained why the scientific community might want to hide the origins of a pandemic like this. He said, "For the substantial subset of virologists who perform gain-of-function research, avoiding restrictions on research funding, avoiding implementation of appropriate biosafety standards, and avoiding implementation of appropriate research oversight are powerful motivators."
Another scientist, Antonio Regalado from MIT, was more direct about it. If it's determined the virus came from a lab, Regalado said, it would, "shatter the scientific edifice, top to bottom."
The scientific edifice is one thing everyone in Washington would like to see preserved. It’s what gave politicians the power they've abused for the past year -- the power to change elections, to eliminate thousands of small businesses, to make certain industries much richer and more powerful and destroy others.
Tomorrow, the Biden administration is not going to announce a new investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. They're happy with the WHO report. Instead, they're going to announce one of the largest tax hikes in this country's history. Maybe the largest. It's projected to total between three and four trillion dollars. Most of the cost will fall on the middle class. At one point, the Biden people even tried to work in a gas tax, just to make sure hourly workers were hurt most.
Meanwhile, China, whose recklessness and dishonesty knocked America from global preeminence and destroyed millions of lives in the process, doesn't have to pay a cent. They’re richer, and we’re getting poorer. Expect that trend to continue. Here’s the interesting thing: no one’s even suggesting reparations from China for COVID. No one can even utter the word. Reparations are for America to pay, always.
This article is adapted from Tucker Carlson's opening commentary on the March 30, 2021 edition of "Tucker Carlson Tonight"