The Washington Post’s Editorial Board is gathering both critical and positive reaction on social media after publishing a piece on Friday which called for answers from China on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
They referenced the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s (WIV) research on bat coronaviruses, noting that lead Dr. Shi Zhengli said that the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus did not match viruses that her team had sampled.
“But that must not be the end of the story,” they wrote. “China actively covered up the early stages of the pandemic, concealed the transmissibility of the virus from its own people and the world, and punished Wuhan doctors who expressed worry about it in late December 2019. President Xi Jinping did not warn the public in China or abroad until mid-January.”
“The disinformation only heightens suspicions that China is trying to distract from or conceal something,” the board said, adding that for investigators to uncover the truth of whether or not there was a leak or laboratory accident, “transparency and verification of data and sample provenance” would be a necessity.
“But it has not been forthcoming,” they added.
The board also highlighted that a critical bat-coronavirus database and a portal of National Virus Resource Center databases both have gone offline — which Shi told the BBC was for security reasons — and cited a claim from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the U.S. government had reason to believe that “several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”
“If the U.S. government possesses information to corroborate that statement, it should release it, including declassifying any intelligence,” the Editorial Board wrote.
“We don’t know where the pandemic began. But a major step toward finding the answer is to examine all the relevant databases and laboratory records, including those at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and elsewhere, and the clues they may hold,” they said.
Responding to The Washington Post’s article, Twitter users both applauded the work and panned it.
“So dumb…@PostOpinions,” wrote one user. “How do ‘journalists’ not see the contradiction of (a) telling us China lies 24/7 and then (b) constructing a narrative based on Chinese sources? It was an obvious [bio-attack] on Defender-Europe, and Wuhan was a Truman Show.”
“This seems to uncritically recap assertions by DRASTIC, which strikes me as sloppy work,” a user stated. “And the ‘GOF’ work in question was largely inserting the spike sequences from novel coronaviruses into a well-characterized strain—arguably safer than working w the new virus itself.”
“It been fun watching the lab origin hypothesis go from ‘deranged science denier conspiracy theory!!!’ to mainstream academics/journalists asking the question,” a user tweeted.
“The obfuscating and [straight-up] lies from the regime about COVID’s origins are, justifiably, succeeding at mainstreaming questions about lab leaks,” a user pointed out.
A bus carrying members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic leaves the airport following their arrival at a cordoned-off section in the international arrivals area at the airport in Wuhan on January 14, 2021. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)
“I have seen so many studies on Covid #disinformation that contained this as one item in their disinformation battery. Serious question: will these studies have to be amended, now that this is being shared by major news outlets? #infodemic,” a user commented.
“The „Wuhan lab leak story” is prominently [featured] on @Wikipedia‘s entry on „COVID-19 misinformation,” they continued. “So is @washingtonpost spreading misinformation or is this no longer considered „misinformation”? Seems like a serious challenge to #disinfo research, no?”
“But the news side at WaPo still studiously ignores the subject,” a user said in response to the @WashPostPR account.
“Bravo, @washingtonpost! You nailed it in this editorial. Thank you,” another user exclaimed.
“Finally asking the right questions,” one wrote.
Previous coverage from The Washington Post on China’s role in the pandemic has been mixed.
Twitter users criticized Thiessen for even asking, calling it “drivel.”
The Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” politics team wrote in a September article that President Trump’s attempt to shift “blame for the pandemic by redirecting anger toward China” was an “old strategy.”
Notably and horrifically, racially-motivated hate crimes against Asian Americans have surged during the pandemic — a statistic which many argue was fueled by Trump’s rhetoric, coining terms like the “Kung Flu” and “China Virus.”
Alternatively, some Democrats like then-candidate Joe Biden reprimanded the Trump administration — although it’s notable that those in the Blue Dog Coalition introduced a bill aimed at stopping China from exploiting the pandemic.
On Jan.6, The Washington Post wrote that politics itself was the real culprit stymieing attempts to get real answers, with Duke-NUS Medical School zoonotic diseases expert Wang Linfa saying any progress would be much harder because “the politics is ahead of the science now.”
China has been openly opposed to the independent investigation, and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying revived unsubstantiated calls for a WHO investigation of a U.S. military lab in Maryland.
“If America respects the truth, then please open up Ft. Detrick and make public more information about the 200 or more bio-labs outside of the U.S., and please allow the WHO expert group to go to the U.S. to investigate the origins,” Hua said.
Last week, the U.S. reached a grim milestone, surpassing 450,000 deaths due of the virus over the course of around a year’s time.
To date, more than 2.3 million people have died worldwide from the COVID-19 virus, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
China has been accused of underreporting its case numbers.