How Fact-Checkers ‘Deceived The Public’ About Possible Virus Outbreak From Wuhan Lab

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Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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It’s not an accident that most Americans are just starting to hear about the lab leak theory of COVID-19 origin as a potential legitimate source for the global pandemic’s outbreak. It’s because the theory was suppressed for more than a year by corporate media fact-checkers and their allies in Big Tech.

The pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post have been filled with articles in recent weeks about the newfound potential legitimacy of the lab-leak theory. The theory posits that COVID-19 was accidentally released from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, potentially after being genetically engineered as a part of “gain-of-function” research.

Evidence for the lab-leak theory has been publicly available but censored from the public on social media.

When the theory first began to surface in early 2020, fact-checkers far and wide decried it as a conspiracy theory. In September 2020, PolitiFact labeled the lab leak theory as a “pants-on-fire” lie that was “inaccurate and ridiculous.” The premature fact-check has now been retracted in May.

Furthermore, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting called it a “lunatic conspiracy theory.”

Republicans like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and former President Donald Trump were chastised for wondering aloud if the pandemic could have originated in the Wuhan lab. Now, some members of the media are admitting that the story got buried for political purposes. (RELATED: Report: Biden Admin Shut Down Trump-Era Probe Into Coronavirus Lab Leak Theory)

Now, these very same fact-checkers that incorrectly labeled the theory false — before an alternative explanation was remotely close to being available — are declaring that the lab-leak hypothesis is “suddenly credible.” That just isn’t true. Reports began surfacing almost immediately after the pandemic began about a potential lab-leak, and enterprising journalists in various corners of the discourse were talking about the theory long before the Glenn Kesslers of the world came around.

“All evidence available today was available twelve months ago, and most evidence available today was available fifteen months ago,” Rutgers University chemical biology professor Richard Ebright told the Daily Caller.

“All that has changed is that the small group that seized control of the narrative in February 2020 and deceived the public and policy-makers for fifteen months now has lost control of the narrative.”

Those controllers of the narrative used Big Tech censorship to enshrine their set of facts into the public record. Facebook was particularly censorious, adding any posts that suggested the virus was man-made to its list of banned misinformation until just this week.

Various pieces exploring the possibility of the lab-leak, with scientific evidence and legitimate sourcing included, were knocked off the platform. The New York Post had a column censored from Facebook in early 2020 that said not to believe China’s official story. Other pieces were labeled as “missing context.”

The fact-checkers played a key role in this. Facebook cited them as an authority when determining what to censor. A column from The Washington Times was labeled as a “false conspiracy theory” by shoddy fact-checkers in early 2020 and was flagged by Facebook as a result.

“There is no doubt that many mainstream media outlets and nearly all scientific journals defended an unfounded consensus starting early last year regarding pandemic origins,” senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Jamie Metzl told the Daily Caller.

“This general failure to ask tough questions created an even greater space for Chinese authorities and a small number of western scientists with significant undisclosed conflicts of interest to mold the accepted public narrative.”

For many onlookers, it was the failure of mainstream journalists to do their proper due diligence that was most frustrating. (RELATED: ‘Debunked Bunkum’: Poorly-Aging Highlight Reel Shows Trump Critics Mocking Lab-Leak Theory)

“From the start, the press mostly mishandled [COVID]-19 reporting. Part of this was because nearly all of the critical issues — mask use, lockdowns, viability of vaccine programs, and so on — were marketed by news companies as culture-war narratives,” wrote journalist Matt Taibbi.

“A related problem had to do with news companies using the misguided notion that the news is an exact science to promote the worse misconception that science is an exact science.”

Now, some of the media is finally coming around, although it may be too late to overcome the 15-month head-start given to Chinese authorities, who reportedly covered their tracks and withheld evidence.

“Journalists, particularly science journalists, were part of that group. Worse, some journalists, again particularly science journalists, still are pushing the false narrative of the last 15 months,” Ebright said.