Scientist: We dismissed lab-leak theory because Trump promoted it

One of the 18 scientists who recently published a letter acknowledging the plausibility of the coronavirus lab-leak theory said she and her colleauges didn’t speak out sooner because President Trump promoted that possibility for the origin of the pandemic.

“At the time, it was scarier to be associated with Trump and to become a tool for racists, so people didn’t want to publicly call for an investigation into lab origins,”said Alina Chan in an interview with NBC News.

Chan is a postdoctoral associate at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University who specializes in genetic engineering.

On its website, NBC titled its Wednesday story about the interview “The science around the lab leak theory hasn’t changed. But here’s why some scientists have.”

NBC wrote:

Chan said there had been trepidation among some scientists about publicly discussing the lab leak hypothesis for fear that their words could be misconstrued or used to support racist rhetoric about how the coronavirus emerged. Trump fueled accusations that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research lab in the city where the first Covid-19 cases were reported, was connected to the outbreak, and on numerous occasions he called the pathogen the “Wuhan virus” or “kung flu.”

One year ago, at the White House, Trump was asked by a reporter: “Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this virus?”

“Yes, I have. Yes, I have,” Trump replied. “And I think the World Health Organization [WHO] should be ashamed of themselves because they’re like the public relations agency for China.”

Theory ‘suddenly beecame credible’

The Washington Post had a similar explanation for the sudden openness to the lab-leak theory in a story last month titled “Timeline: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible.”.

The author, Glenn Kessler, who writes the Post’s “Fact Checker” column, said that in “recent months the idea that [the virus] emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – once dismissed as a ridiculous conspiracy theory – has gained new credence.”

He said the Trump administration’s “messaging was often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims.”

Trump, however, argued he was using the conventional nomenclature regarding pandemics, based on their place of origin, such as the “Hong Kong flu.” His use of the terms China and Wuhan, he repeatedly emphasized, was in reference to the Chinese Communist Party, charging the government was engaged in a deadly and costly cover-up.

The Wall Street Journal reported that when Trump began pushing the lab hypothesis last year, other governments that could have helped press for a lab investigation distanced themselves from the administration, according to Andrew Bremberg, who at the time was the U.S. ambassador to the World Health Organization.

“It was like an overnight shift,” he said. “When the president first touched this, they shut down.”

Via Wnd