Lab Leak Theory: 1, Misinformation Cops: 0

Confirmation of Wuhan scientists as "patients zero" makes the lab leak theory look likely—and the misinformation police look like fools.


The lab leak theory of COVID-19's origins gained tremendous legitimacy this week as The Wall Street Journal confirmed independent reports that the earliest outbreak occurred at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in November 2019.

"Patients zero" are now presumed to be three Chinese scientists, including Ben Hu, who worked extensively on gain-of-function research (the manipulation of viruses to make them more dangerous), which was funded by grants from the U.S. government. Those cases occurred in November 2019—well before the Huanan wet market outbreak favored by some in the scientific community as the more likely origin story—and they occurred among the very people one would predict if the virus originated in a lab. This is quite damning, to say the least. Anyone still clinging to an animal origin theory—remember the pangolins and raccoon dogs?—is running up against Occam's razor.

Assuming the intelligence reports are accurate and that Hu and his colleagues did contract the earliest cases of COVID-19, the implications are huge. This would mean that substandard safety protocols at the Wuhan lab probably unleashed a killer pathogen on the rest of the planet, and the Chinese government attempted to cover it up.

China is hardly the only government on the hook; the lab leak also means that research paid for by U.S. tax dollars—and vouched for by coronavirus czar Anthony Fauci, the nation's foremost gain-of-function advocate—is partly to blame for a pandemic that killed millions of people worldwide. Fauci, the very person tasked with leading the U.S. response to COVID-19, was in charge of the government agency that gave Hu, the gain-of-function researcher initially sickened with the disease, millions of dollars to experiment with bat coronaviruses.

Information on the central role played by Fauci's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) was made public by the White Coat Waste Project, a watchdog group that uses public records requests to scrutinize federal funding of science. The Journal cited the organization's work, writing that it confirmed Hu's receipt of U.S. funding.

Concerned about the potential for catastrophic harm, the Obama administration paused federal funding of gain-of-function research in 2014. In late 2022, Fauci sat for a seven-hour deposition, admitting that exceptions had been made for gain-of-function research deemed vital to government scientists. In any case, the pause ended in 2017. Meanwhile, numerous authorities, including the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, have raised concerns about negligence at the Wuhan lab over the years. Vanity Fair and ProPublica described the lab as a "biocomplex in crisis."

If this sounds like a recipe for disaster, well, here we are.

The confirmation of the lab leak theory would also mean that all the mainstream journalists, establishment scientists, and social media moderators who derided its adherents as conspiracy theorists were stunningly wrong. This should serve as a potent lesson to all the entities—many of them state-funded—that have made policing alleged misinformation their seminal issue.

Said cops including some of the most influential voices in the scientific community and expert commentariat. The New York Times' lead coronavirus reporter, Apoorva Mandavilli, previously described the lab leak theory as having racist roots. Vaccine scientist Peter Hotez criticized the comedian Jon Stewart for daring to raise the issue on an episode of Stephen Colbert's show. CNN medical analyst Leana Wen lamented the theory's likelihood of inspiring anti-Chinese animus. Others in the media called the lab leak a "fringe conspiracy."

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, vigorously banned and suppressed posts about the lab leak before finally abandoning this policy as the theory gained some mainstream acceptance toward the latter half of 2021. As revealed by the Facebook FilesReason's report on the communication between social media companies and federal health bureaucrats, Facebook took its COVID-19 content cues from the government. All of this behavior—these efforts to shame or suppress individuals who were asking questions about the preferred narratives of government scientists—now seems incredibly short-sighted.

The Biden administration has committed to declassifying intelligence related to the origins of COVID-19, consistent with bipartisan legislation signed earlier this year. Frustratingly, the feds have missed the congressionally imposed deadline, which was last weekend. It is long past time for President Joe Biden and federal health officials to tell the American people the truth so that all responsible parties can ultimately be held accountable; despite the assumptions of so many media commentators, the lab leak theory does not have unilaterally anti-Chinese implications—on the contrary, it is the explanation for COVID-19 that incriminates the U.S. government as well.