Earlier this month, FBI Director Chris Wray became the latest government official to admit that, based on the best available evidence, COVID-19 likely came from a virology lab in Wuhan, China. So let’s recall how the media regarded the lab leak theory back during the nascent stages of the 2020 pandemic.
Then-President Trump, a who is Republican, was among the first public figures to float the theory that the coronavirus had emerged from a lab. The media, who are not Republicans, therefore concluded there must be no possible way the virus had emerged from a lab. Recent reporting suggests disgraced former CNN president Jeff Zucker even instructed his staff to ignore the origins of COVID, which he described as a “Trump talking point.”
Predictably, the term conspiracy theory was thrown around a lot on TV news, in between segments speculating whether the true progenitor of the virus was bats, pangolins, or snakes. But now, as is often the case, yesterday’s conspiracy theory has become today’s reality, and the media have a ton of explaining to do.
On February 17, 2020, the Washington Post smeared Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) for “repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked.” MSNBC anchor Brian Williams featured that article on his show that evening, scoffing that some on the right had the temerity to suggest the coronavirus “was perhaps man-made inside a lab in China.”
Almost every TV outlet repeatedly reminded viewers of a (now provably false) quote from then-NIH Director Anthony Fauci implying the the virus was almost certainly not from a lab: “Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicated that it evolved in nature and then jumped species.”
In August of 2020, an NBC News crew was granted exclusive access to the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory. The network then aired what essentially amounted to a CCP propaganda piece featuring an interview by correspondent Janis Mackey Frayer with the lab’s director, who was adamant that no leak had occurred.
But as always, there will be no cathartic I-told-you-so moment. The media will never admit fault — not for this nor for any of the other catastrophic miscarriages of journalism they’ve committed, and will no doubt continue to commit. Remember: they’re not physically capable of embarrassment.