Here Are The Headlines That Got It Dead Wrong On The Possibility Of A Man-Made Virus Leaked From A Lab

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The idea that coronavirus could have leaked from a lab was dismissed by news organizations as a fringe “conspiracy theory” just one year ago, but now scientists have acknowledged that the theory is possible.

Media outlets ran with China’s preferred narrative, that the virus originated animals, and refused to acknowledge the possibility that it could have been leaked from a lab that conducted gain-of-function research. When some scientists claimed that the lab leak theory was not plausible, the media often repeated their claims without skepticism. This is a list of some of the worst offenders.


CNN slammed Republican Sen. Tom Cotton from Arkansas for his comments on Fox News in an article titled “Tom Cotton is playing a dangerous game with his coronavirus speculation.” The outlet’s editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, said in the article that the Arkansas senator “isn’t an infectious disease expert” but “decided to wildly speculate about the origins of the novel coronavirus.”

Cillizza cited a fact-check that CNN ran that was dedicated to fact-checking Cotton. The fact-check cited Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who said that the lab leak theory was not plausible.

“I have seen no one provide any solid information to support that theory,” Schaffner said. “I think at this point you can draw a line through it and say that didn’t happen.”

CNN ran several other headlines that dismissed the lab leak theory, including: “Nearly 30% in the US believe a coronavirus theory that’s almost certainly not true,” and “Trump contradicts US intel community by claiming he’s seen evidence coronavirus originated in Chinese lab.” (RELATED: ‘Lunatic Conspiracy Theories’: Here’s How Liberal Fact Checkers Treated People Who Supported Lab Leak Theory)

The Washington Post

The headline, “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked,” preceded a story that called the lab-leak hypothesis a “fringe theory.”

The outlet later issued a correction to the article.

“Earlier versions of this story and its headline inaccurately characterized comments by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) regarding the origins of the coronavirus,” the correction read. “The term ‘debunked’ and The Post’s use of ‘conspiracy theory’ have been removed because, then as now, there was no determination about the origins of the virus.”

Other stories from The Washington post, including “Was the new coronavirus accidentally released from a Wuhan lab? It’s doubtful,” and “President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continue to push unsubstantiated Wuhan lab theory on novel coronavirus origins,” were similarly dismissive of the idea that coronavirus could have come from a lab.

ABC News

ABC News slammed Trump for pulling a grant for coronavirus research that was tied to the Wuhan lab, running an article titled “Trump admin pulls NIH grant for coronavirus research over ties to Wuhan lab at heart of conspiracy theories.”

The New York Times 

The New York Times ran a story titled “Senator Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins” in February of 2020. The article slammed Cotton for raising questions about the virus’ potential origins on Fox News. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Tom Cotton Blasts ‘Apologists’ In Media For Accepting Chinese Propaganda Surrounding Coronavirus Origins)

Despite the Times’ claim that Cotton had helped boost a “conspiracy theory” that “lacks evidence and has been dismissed by scientists,” the senator actually stopped short of saying that the theory was undeniably true. In fact, he said that “we don’t have evidence” that the virus was made in a lab, but called for U.S. officials to “at least ask the question to see what the evidence says.”


NPR ran two stories citing “scientists” and “virus researchers” who supposedly “debunk[ed]” the possibility that the novel virus leaked from a lab.

The first article, “Scientists Debunk Lab Accident Theory Of Pandemic Emergence,” cited an episode of NPR’s All Things Considered where “scientists dismiss the idea that the coronavirus pandemic was caused by the accident in a lab.”

“They believe the close interactions of people with wildlife worldwide are a far more likely culprit,” the article continued.

The second article was called “Virus Researchers Cast Doubt On Theory Of Coronavirus Lab Accident” and cited “more than half-a-dozen scientists familiar with lab accidents and how research on coronaviruses is conducted” who said that “there is virtually no chance” coronavirus came from a lab.

News outlets have now been forced to admit that the lab leak theory is at least possible given new evidence. But Americans haven’t forgotten the way “conspiracy theorists” were treated by the media, evident in the fact that trust in media has plummeted to all time lows.

The Daily Caller reached out to ABC News, NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN for comment and did not immediately receive a response.