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He’s previously helped reveal “Twitter Files” documents, shedding light on the inner workings of the “censorship-industrial complex.”
Now, in his latest report for The Disinformation Chronicle, investigative journalist Paul D. Thacker presents a timeline of the “conspiracy to deny” the theory that COVID-19 may have resulted from a lab leak.
According to Thacker, four years after the virus appeared, this “conspiracy to deny” the lab-leak theory continues.
In one recent example, Peter Daszak, Ph.D., president of the EcoHealth Alliance, who conducted gain-of-function research alongside scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, said at a conference that the pandemic started through zoonosis — spillover of the virus from an animal to humans.
“We know this is misleading and dishonest, and that much of the evidence points to a lab accident by Daszak’s colleagues at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Thacker wrote.
This evidence, Thacker said, was known to scientists soon after COVID-19 appeared.
“Virologists knew within a month after the pandemic began in 2019 that the COVID virus appeared genetically manipulated and that it may have leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China — a lab that was funded by Anthony Fauci at the NIH [National Institutes of Health],” he wrote.
Yet, Thacker said, “Instead of explaining this to the public, these scientists launched a misinformation campaign with complicit science writers to label critics ‘conspiracy theorists’ and misdirect attention away from their research colleagues and funders as the possible cause of so many deaths and unimaginable economic catastrophe.”
As part of this misinformation campaign, Thacker wrote, the same scientists, along with complicit figures in government and the media, labeled any speech that questioned the official COVID-19 narrative as “misinformation.”
Thacker said government agencies continue to perpetuate a cover-up of the lab-leak theory. “The NIH has hidden what it knows and when it knew it, and is ignoring Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.”
The FOIA requests came from several organizations that are now suing the NIH “to force compliance with FOIA so they can gain access to public documents.” Yet even when the NIH responds, “They still hide information by heavily redacting documents,” according to Thacker.
In one instance, “The Intercept sued the NIH for documents on the pandemic’s origin and received 92 pages that were fully redacted,” Thacker wrote.
Nevertheless, Thacker said, “Multiple lawsuits against the NIH continue to move forward and uncover more and more evidence of what the government knew and when NIH officials knew it.”
Thacker, who was recently interviewed by producer Vanessa Dylyn for an upcoming documentary about the damage the pandemic caused to society, said he received “6 pages of questions” concerning the possible lab accident at Wuhan — which he decided to turn into an article.
“So much has happened since December 31, 2019, when the World Health Organization was notified of a new pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China,” Thacker wrote. “Instead of going over how this all unfolded over four years, I decided to lay out what happened, based on what we now know. It’s been a long, tough journey.”
Government officials, scientists ‘have been hiding information from the public’
According to Thacker, much of what we learned about the Wuhan cover-up leaked out over time, because Fauci and others in the government have been hiding information from the public and virologists such as Scripps Research’s Kristian Andersen have been “lying to a complicit media.”
“We only learned last July, for example, that Andersen didn’t believe the conclusions from the ‘Proximal Origins’ paper he published in Nature Medicine that denigrated the possibility of a Wuhan lab accident,” Thacker wrote.
A report by the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic released in July found that Fauci and other key scientists and government officials used the paper as a means to suppress the COVID-19 lab-leak theory.
Such efforts at a cover-up began almost immediately after the pandemic’s outbreak, even as scientists privately admitted that a lab leak was highly likely to have occurred.
“A month after the pandemic’s outbreak in Wuhan, China, on New Year’s Eve 2019, a press officer at the National Institutes of Health emailed pandemic talking points to Anthony Fauci, who was leading the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID),” Thacker wrote.
“The press officer noted that Fauci’s NIAID funded many of the world’s coronavirus experts, including Peter Daszak of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, Ralph Baric at the University of North Carolina, and Ian Lipkin of Columbia University,” he added.
The Jan. 27, 2020, email noted that Fauci was funding coronavirus research conducted by Daszak and the EcoHealth Alliance in China and had been doing so “for the past five years” and that the two were “among the biggest players in coronavirus work.”
At around the same time, “Fauci had also begun a series of calls and emails with various virologists,” including Andersen, who told Fauci in an email that “some of the features (potentially) look engineered,” referring to the COVID-19 virus, adding that the virus showed characteristics not consistent with “expectations with evolutionary theory.”
On Feb. 1, 2020, a conference call followed, organized by Jeremy Farrar, Ph.D., then-director of the Wellcome Trust, described by Thacker as “one of the world’s largest funders of virology research.” Fauci, Andersen and other prominent virologists participated in the call, which Farrar asked “everyone to treat in total confidence.”
Later that day, in an email to government scientists, including Dr. Francis Collins, then-director of the NIH, Fauci said, “The call with Jeremy Farrar (Wellcome Trust) went very well.” Yet, Fauci acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 was engineered.
“They were concerned about the fact that upon viewing the sequences of several isolates of the nCoV, there were mutations in the virus that would be most unusual to have evolved naturally in the bats and that there was suspicion that this mutation was intentionally inserted,” Fauci wrote.
In the email, Fauci made another key acknowledgment: “Scientists in Wuhan University are known to have been working on gain-of-function experiments to determine the molecular mechanisms associated with bat viruses adapting to human infection, and the outbreak originated in Wuhan.”
“These emails show that Fauci and many of the world’s top virologists knew by February 1, 2020, that Fauci was funding EcoHealth Alliance to do coronavirus research in China and that the COVID virus did not seem natural,” Thacker wrote.
“But instead of alerting the public, emails show that Fauci, Farrar, and multiple virologists began plotting to deny these same suspicions by orchestrating the publication of three scientific papers to label the possibility of a lab accident a ‘conspiracy theory,’” he added.
Scientists published papers refuting lab-leak theory but privately acknowledged it
According to Thacker, three scientific papers played a key role in perpetuating the zoonotic theory of COVID-19’s origins — and in labeling opposing narratives as “conspiracy theories.”
One of the earliest attempts to refute the lab-leak theory was the publication of a statement in The Lancet on Feb. 19, 2020, by Farrar and Daszak, characterizing assertions regarding a possible lab accident at Wuhan as a “conspiracy theory.”
Thacker noted that several of the 27 scientists — including Daszak — who signed the statement omitted reporting their ties to EcoHealth Alliance, which funded research at the Wuhan lab. It was later revealed that 26 of the 27 signatories of the statement had ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Leading up to the publication of the statement, Daszak was working on getting researchers to come on board as co-signatories. However, in an email he sent to some other virologists on Feb. 6, he recommended they not sign the statement “so it has some distance from us and therefore doesn’t work in a counterproductive way.”
In a separate email to Baric, Daszak wrote “We’ll then put it out in a way that doesn’t link it back to our collaboration so we maximize an independent voice.”
A week later, a Feb. 26, 2020, commentary in Emerging Microbes & Infections repeated claims that lab-leak theory was a conspiracy theory.
The paper was written by virologists — including Linda Saif, Ph.D., of Ohio State University — working behind the scenes with Baric and Shi Zhengli, who conducted research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“Currently, there are speculations, rumours and conspiracy theories that SARS-CoV-2 is of laboratory origin,” the commentary stated.
Two weeks prior, on Feb. 12, 2020, “One of the authors forwarded an email from Ralph Baric that included his comments and changes to the essay’s text, although Baric wrote that he wanted to hide his involvement,” Thacker wrote.
“Don’t want to be cited in as having commented before submission,” Baric wrote.
Yet, on Feb. 16, the commentary’s authors exchanged private concerns that some samples of viruses from the Wuhan Institute of Virology “may not have been handled properly and leaked out of the lab … but that’s just a possibility.”
The acknowledgment came even as the authors were exchanging comments with Zhengli about the paper.
However, “The essay did not disclose the authors’ private concerns that the COVID virus could have come from the lab, nor that Ralph Baric and Shi Zhengli had secretly helped to edit and write the paper,” Thacker wrote. “The essay was downloaded 75,000 times — the third-most downloaded article of 2020 for publisher Taylor and Francis.
The most influential paper of all was published on March 17, 2020. Sometimes referred to as “Proximal Origins,” the paper, authored by Andersen and two other virologists concluded that a lab leak was not “plausible.” A month earlier, Fauci and Collins had reviewed drafts of the paper.
On Feb. 17, Farrar emailed the virologists working on the paper to ask them to make a last-minute change to the draft, from “It is unlikely” to “It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of an existing SARS-related coronavirus.” Separately, Farrar said he would “push Nature” to accept the paper.
And on March 8, Andersen emailed Fauci and Collins a new draft of “Proximal Origins,” thanking them for “their ‘advice and leadership’ on the paper,” Thacker wrote, adding that Fauci and Collins were invited “to comment and offer suggestions.”
“The paper made no mention of Jeremy Farrar’s edits to the manuscript, nor of the “advice and leadership” Fauci and Collins provided. The “Proximal Origins” paper became the most cited scientific manuscript of 2020. Several days later, Fauci’s institute approved a multi-million dollar grant for Andersen,” Thacker added.
A promotional campaign for “Proximal Origins” followed, including in a March 26 post by Collins for the NIH Director’s Blog, where he wrote: “Some folks are even making outrageous claims that the new coronavirus causing the pandemic was engineered in a lab” and that “A new study debunks such claims by providing scientific evidence that this novel coronavirus arose naturally.”
And during an April 17, 2020, White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, Fauci told reporters “There was a study recently that we can make available to you” which showed that COVID-19 “is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.”
“Published in scientific journals, these three papers silenced debate about the origin of the COVID virus, as science writers then began reporting that any question of a Wuhan lab accident was a ‘conspiracy theory,’” Thacker wrote.
Fauci and other key virologists also “began campaigning inside the intelligence community to shut down any inquiry into a possible Chinese lab accident, later admitting they had briefed officials from the State Department, FBI and the CIA,” Thacker wrote.
“Virologists and government scientists then widely promoted these three papers in the media during the initial months of the pandemic, silencing debate about NIH funding in Wuhan, where a lab accident could have started the COVID outbreak,” he said.
Fauci called questions about COVID origin ‘conspiracy theories’ and ‘attacks’
The media quickly jumped on board, according to Thacker. “Science reporters began trumpeting the line that a lab accident in Wuhan was a ‘conspiracy theory’ and social media companies began to censor reports about a Chinese lab accident,” he wrote.
Indeed, Fauci took to the media to describe questioning about the lab-leak theory as conspiracy theories and “attacks.”
In a Feb. 9, 2020, podcast, Fauci told former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich “I’ve heard these conspiracy theories. And like all conspiracy theories, Newt, they’re just conspiracy theories,” adding that “the things you’re hearing are still in the realm of conspiracy theories without any scientific basis.”
Separately, Fauci told NBC, “A lot of what you’re seeing as attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science. Because all of the things that I have spoken about, consistently from the very beginning, have been fundamentally based on science.”
Thacker cited several examples of what he called “complicit media,” including a Time magazine profile of Zhengli, a Scientific American essay calling claims of a lab leak “evidence free,” and a Nature Magazine article calling the lab-leak theory “conjecture.”
One New York Times reporter, Apoorva Mandavilli, tweeted in May 2021: “Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not yet here.”
According to Thacker, when a September 2021 preprint study argued that viruses most closely related to COVID-19 were identified in Laos, “science writers at Nature, Science Magazine, and the New York Times science desk hopped all over findings to promote a message that COVID-19 likely arose from a virus in Laos.”
This reporting was undermined by internal government documents that showed researchers had been “shipping viruses, for many years, from Laos to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for research” and by evidence provided in a study by the Wuhan lab itself that they had been collecting such viruses from Laos and China since 2006.
More recently, this evidence was further bolstered following the revelation that, under Fauci’s leadership, an NIH-run lab in Montana infected 12 Egyptian fruit bats with a ‘SARS-like’ virus called WIV1, imported from Wuhan, in 2018 — a year before the outbreak of COVID-19.
Out of all these outlets, “only the Washington Post later recanted and corrected false reporting that it was a ‘conspiracy theory’ to claim that the COVID-19 virus may have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China,” Thacker wrote.
Even as more evidence about a potential lab leak emerged, crackdowns on such narratives continued — and social media platforms also got into the act.
Indeed, such censorship began early during the pandemic. Thacker cited the example of ZeroHedge, who on Feb. 1, 2020, published an article stating that a Chinese scientist may have been responsible for the COVID-19 lab leak.
In response, Twitter banned ZeroHedge’s account, while emails have revealed that Fauci and Farrar discussed the ZeroHedge story after it was published. ZeroHedge’s account was later reinstated, following an appeal.