The Washington Post has corrected a year-old article which dismissed the lab-leak theory of COVID’s source as “debunked.” The piece attacked Republican Senator Tom Cotton’s claim that the virus may have originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
The original article called Cotton’s hypothesis “debunked” and a “conspiracy theory.” The original headline from February 2020, “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked,” was modified Tuesday to read, “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus fringe theory that scientists have disputed.”
The new popularity of the lab-leak explanation in the mainstream likely accounts for the publication’s sudden retraction. No longer deemed far-fetched and implausible, the possibility that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab is now being actively probed by the United States and other international actors, such as British intelligence.
The Washington Post editors added a note altering readers to the correction.
“Earlier versions of this story and its headline inaccurately characterized comments by Senator Tom Cotton regarding the origins of the coronavirus. 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,” the editor’s note read.
The initial article cited a Fox News interview with Cotton in which he explained that the lab-leak theory was plausible because Wuhan, where the virus originated, contains “China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.”
The revision comes after several prominent public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, admitted that they lacked the information necessary to rule out a lab-leak. Those comments come after World Health Organization (WHO) director Tedros Adhanom revealed that his organization’s investigative team, which dismissed the lab-leak theory as unlikely, had not sufficiently investigated the possibility.
After refuting it for months, the Biden administration accepted the theory as plausible after the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers at the WIV were hospitalized with symptoms consistent with COVID in November 2019, a month before China said it recorded the first confirmed case. President Joe Biden subsequently directed U.S. intelligence agencies to determine the likely cause of the virus and report their findings within 90 days.
Social media companies joined corporate news outlets like The Washington Post to discourage the lab-leak theory under the guise of “fact-checking.” Last week, Facebook announced it will no longer remove or flag as “misinformation” content referencing the lab-leak theory after doing so for more than a year.