There is no doubt that the American media played a large role in suppressing the theory that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China. They may not have conspired with the Chinese government in denying a lab leak was a possibility, but they eagerly did their bidding by doing their best to suppress the theory in service to the “Defeat Trump” agenda.
That’s why there must be a reckoning for the media. No matter how the origin story for the coronavirus ends — natural transmission or a terrible, tragic accident — the media must confront their titanic failures in covering the story of the 21st century so far.
Everything that’s wrong with modern media — its arrogance, its elitism, its unrelenting bias — played a role in stifling the conversation about Covid’s mysterious origins.
Perhaps the experience of Senator Tom Cotton would be instructive. Cotton, you may recall, broached the possibility of a lab leak as far back as February of 2020.
“We don’t have evidence that this disease originated there,” Cotton said of the lab, “but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says, and China right now is not giving evidence on that question at all.”
Zaid Jilani, a former writer for The Intercept, details the media response to Cotton’s reasonable questions.
But the response to Cotton’s theory and nuanced line of questioning was brutal. The New York Times dismissed him as repeating a “Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins,” as the headline put it. The Washington Post insisted that Cotton “keeps repeating a conspiracy theory that was already debunked.” And the rest of the mainstream media wasn’t much kinder.
But how could the theory possibly have been debunked? There is no official consensus on where the new coronavirus first emerged and, as Cotton pointed out, China’s government made it basically impossible for outside observers to investigate the origins of the virus.
So where does Tom Cotton go for his apology? Cotton wasn’t alleging a “conspiracy” anyway. He was saying the Chinese government was covering up the truth in full view of the media and the rest of the world. Not very conspiratorial of them.
But that’s the way it went for more than a year.
It appears that for the past year, our media seemed to lock arms in shielding the Chinese government from the scrutiny it deserved for failing to control the virus. Whether or not the lab-leak hypothesis bears out, it is clear that our nation’s journalists did not approach this question with an open mind.
In a tweet that she later deleted, Apoorva Mandavilli, a New York Times science reporter who has been on the coronavirus beat, offered a window into the mindset of much of the media: “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.”
“Racist roots”? Really? Ms. Mandavilli should tell us more about ourselves. Race has so besotted the left that any criticism of the Chinese Communists is seen as racist.
No wonder the media had no qualms about squelching the lab-leak theory. It played into their heroic self-image of battling racists.
The Daily Caller compiled a list of eight lab-leak facts ignored or suppressed by the media. The list is an extraordinary indictment of the press. Perhaps most telling was the fact, known to Western media as far back as May 2020, that China was apparently systematically deleting early data on the pandemic. This, of course, would make it much harder for any investigation to uncover the truth.
In May 2020, China confirmed that it had authorized laboratories to destroy early samples of the virus that causes COVID-19 for “biosafety reasons.”
Also in May 2020, the New York Post reported that open-source intelligence uncovered in the United Kingdom revealed that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had censored a virus database in late 2019.
Later reports would reveal that the Wuhan Institute of Virology database removed a database containing information on at least 16,000 virus samples it had studied prior the pandemic in September 2019.
When the “conspiracy” of the lab-leak theory was first being discussed, China was busy scrubbing the historical record. Why wasn’t the media the least bit curious about why they might have done that?
There is no agency or government department we can go to that will investigate and punish the media for any of this. “Media watchdogs” are, not surprisingly, largely ignored by the media. And since the media won’t highlight their findings, they work in near-total obscurity.
So the only reckoning for the media will be self-induced. It will be very difficult for the media to point to themselves and accuse themselves of malfeasance, journalistic malpractice, and not doing their jobs. That would be difficult for anyone, but especially for the elitist, arrogant snobs who never apologize for getting it wrong.