News & Politics

Is There More Than Anti-Trump Politics Behind a Reported New York Times Decision Not to Investigate COVID's Origins?

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File

For the Facebook fact-checkers and interns who’ll undoubtedly look this piece over, look up Walter Duranty. He’s dead now but is important to this story because of a massive tragedy that he deliberately covered up. Short version: As the New York Times correspondent in Moscow and the most respected Western reporter in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, Duranty actively covered up the massive campaign of starvation and murder that Joseph Stalin perpetrated against Ukraine. Duranty didn’t just look the other way. He actively participated under the respected aegis of the New York Times. He bullied other reporters from covering it. One reporter, Gareth Jones, tried to find the facts and get the truth out and battled Duranty, who declared that there was no famine.

That history may be relevant again because the New York Times reportedly decided not to use its considerable influence and resources to investigate the origins of COVID-19 at the same time China was lying and delaying, early weeks in the pandemic that cost lives. That story is perhaps the most important story of our time. COVID has killed millions and transformed the entire world. Where it came from and who, if anyone, is responsible is important.

Unless you’re a leader at the New York Times, the Spectator reported earlier this week.

‘In early 2020,’ a veteran Times employee tells me, ‘I suggested to a senior editor at the paper that we investigate the origins of COVID-19. I was told it was dangerous to run a piece about the origins of the coronavirus. There was resistance to running anything that could suggest that [COVID-19 was manmade or had leaked accidentally from a lab].’

The global pandemic was then in its early stages. Donald Trump was running for reelection and calling SARS-CoV-2 the ‘Chinese virus’. His secretary of state Mike Pompeo had told ABC’s This Week in May 2020 that he had seen ‘significant’ and ‘enormous evidence’ of the virus originating in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. A few weeks later, Sir Richard Dearlove, the ex-head of Britain’s MI6 spy service agreed: ‘I subscribe to the theory…that it’s an engineered escapee from the Wuhan Institute [of Virology].’

Yet the Times, according to two well-placed sources, refused to investigate the biggest story of our time.

To be clear, the Times denies that it refused to investigate the origins of COVID. It also told the Spectator that it stopped accepting money from China “in 2020.”

To be just as clear, the Times is political, that’s been obvious long before it foisted the 1619 Project on an unsuspecting country. The Times also hasn’t actually done much reporting on COVID’s origins. During the pandemic, it purged its newsroom of Bari Weiss and Donald McNeil for wrongthink and went on an internal witch hunt after it published Sen. Tom Cotton’s riot oped. It went extremely woke. Let’s just say its record lately isn’t stellar and denials from it may not be taken entirely as read. The 1619 Project isn’t valid history but the Times surely wants it to be. If it decided from on high that investigating COVID was too “dangerous” that’s well beyond politics or even Trump. That’s possibly back to Walter Duranty and covering up for a hostile regime with potential crimes in progress.

Related: Mr. Jones: Movie Depicts When The New York Times Helped Stalin Cancel 10 Million

Crimes? Possibly yes. The communist Chinese government infamously controls all within its borders and quite a bit beyond (see: the NBA). It’s running concentration camps in which it enslaves people. It’s imposing a digital social credit system to keep everyone else in line. There is no free press in China and it’s crushing what’s left of a free press in Hong Kong. The Wuhan lab is a government entity about which we’ve learned some but not enough over the past year. Did it engage in gain-of-function research? For what purpose? Did anyone there engage in banned biowarfare research? Answering these questions and many more are important, and yes getting answers may lead to some dangerous places and consequences. Why did China apparently engage in a cover-up during the most vital weeks of the outbreak?

The Times is one of the few papers with the resources to get the facts from a place as closed as China. But according to insiders there, it decided not to.

Why?

The Spectator gets at part of an answer.

In the years before COVID-19, revenue from China was an integral part of the Times’s business model. The paper received millions of dollars from Chinese government-controlled outlets, especially China Daily, and published ‘advertorials’ pushing the Chinese government’s line. The Times wasn’t alone in doing this — though few outlets anywhere in the West went all-in, as the Times did in 2012, when it launched a Chinese-language edition and, soon after that, a luxury magazine.

What if the rest of the answer is more along the lines of Duranty’s actions — actively helping conceal ghastly crimes?

Instead of doing what journalists are supposed to do — ask questions — the Times led the charge in stigmatizing debate about COVID-19’s origins as a ‘fringe theory’. Alexandra Stevenson, the Times’s Hong Kong reporter, called it ‘the kind of conspiracy once reserved for tinfoil hatters’.

Hm, “conspiracy” and “tinfoil hat.” That was the Times correspondent in Hong Kong, which China was then swallowing whole and crushing dissent within. Stevenson, to be clear, was talking about a theory that COVID could have originated in that lab as a bioweapon. But that was also so early in the pandemic that dismissing any theory out of hand and calling it “fringe” and the like without any investigation risked missing important clues and sources. It risked putting other reporters and outlets off pursuing the story lest they run into criticism from the powerful New York Times. Was that the point?

Duranty similarly dismissed Jones when he wrote articles for smaller papers about the famine in Ukraine in the 1930s. Jones answered Duranty’s accusations in an open letter in May 1933.

While partially agreeing with my statement, (Duranty) implied that my report (of a famine that was killing millions) was a “scare story” and compared it with certain fantastic prophecies of Soviet downfall.  He also made the strange suggestion that I was forecasting the doom of the Soviet régime, a forecast I have never ventured.

“Scare story” sounds an awful lot like “conspiracy theory.” History doesn’t repeat itself but it can rhyme.