Column: The Media's Embarrassing Incuriosity About Wuhan

May 28th, 2021 5:59 AM

Pardon the whiplash! It feels like the media suddenly decided the theory that the deadly coronavirus leaked from a lab in Wuhan is now considered plausible when it was aggressively dismissed by the press as a “fringe theory” in 2020.

It's not a mystery why this happened. The Democrats thought the coronavirus was going to be that “silver bullet” that would remove Trump from office. Their arrogant belief that Trump was an ignoramus led them to shame anyone or any theory that Trump endorsed on the year’s biggest story. They were willing to embrace the supposed authority of communist China, of the China-enabling World Health Organization, and the “prevailing opinion” of science journals and magazines....that endorsed Biden for president.

Needless to say, “Science” doesn’t operate on this principle. The “hard news” business does.

Washington Post “Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler posted an article on May 25 titled “How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible.” Kessler’s timeline suggested some in the media have been warming up to this once “debunked” thesis after Trump’s defeat, including two former New York Times science reporters and a segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

Kessler notes that Sen. Tom Cotton proclaimed on January 30, 2020 in an Armed Services Committee hearing that “This coronavirus is a catastrophe on the scale of Chernobyl for China. But actually, it’s probably worse than Chernobyl, which was localized in its effect. The coronavirus could result in a global pandemic.”

He was even generous enough to suggest Cotton “from the start pointed to the lab’s location in Wuhan, pressing China for answers, so the history books will reward him if he turns out to be right.”

What Kessler leaves unsaid is his timeline is all the vicious media rhetoric against Cotton for merely demanding China should have to answer for this. He does admit “The Trump administration’s messaging was often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims.”

Start with his own newspaper. “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy that was already debunked,” warned The Washington Post.

“Senator Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Conspiracy Origins,” screamed The New York Times.

“Tom Cotton is playing a dangerous game with his coronavirus speculation,” wrote Chris Cillizza at

Kessler also left out of his timeline his own tweet saying the theory was “virtually impossible.” He dismissed Sen. Ted Cruz and promoted his shop’s explanatory video on Wuhan: “I fear @tedcruz missed the scientific animation in the video that shows how it is virtually impossible for this virus [to] jump from the lab. Or the many interviews with actual scientists. We deal in facts, and viewers can judge for themselves.”

Liberal journalists “deal in facts,” like asserting the theory is “virtually impossible.” What happens when they suddenly reverse themselves? As Kessler demonstrates, even "fact checkers" do a terrible job of actually apologizing or admitting what they said last year. They pretend like no one can Google it and post it on social media.

This explicit reversal – this “un-debunking” – exposes the arrogance of the media belief that they represent Facts, Truth, and Science, as if they were not emotionally blinded by Trump hatred. It also exposes the “independent fact-checkers” and their clients like Facebook who squashed this theory because the liberal knee jerked at every presidential utterance of "China virus" and "Wuhan flu."

One easy way for the media to build trust with a larger readership is to dial down their arrogance that they know everything, especially on highly important matters where we were woefully under-informed. Will this massive embarrassment cause them to change anything?