House hearing: Scientists who slammed Covid lab leak theory secretly believed it ‘highly likely’

by WorldTribune Staff, July 14, 2023

Since its publication in March of 2020, “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2,” a peer-reviewed paper that came out firmly in favor of a natural origin for Covid-19 and played an influential role in shaping the early public debate, has been accessed online more than 5 million times. It has been widely cited by Big Media and used by Big Tech platforms to silence those who believe the virus likely originated at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.

White House Covid czar Dr. Anthony Facui and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins promoted the paper in many public venues.

On Tuesday, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic held an oversight hearing during which it was revealed that the scientist who led the condemnation of the Covid lab leak theory privately believed it was “highly likely.”

Scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology

Dr. Kristian Andersen, a Danish evolutionary biologist, co-authored the “Proximal Origin” research paper that denounced the lab origin scenario as a conspiracy theory and xenophobic.

Yet Slack messages obtained by show how just weeks before the publication of the paper, after having put together the first draft, Andersen responded to two colleagues who wanted to conclusively rule out the lab scenario: “The main issue is that accidental escape is in fact highly likely – it’s not some fringe theory.”

But the paper they were drafting argued the opposite and would be used to label the possibility of a lab leak as a fringe conspiracy, confidently asserting, “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”

Health officials, politicians, media, and Big Tech worldwide used this conclusion to suppress reports, including those by, that the lab leak was indeed the more likely explanation.

After the paper’s publication, Collins played it up in a March 2020 blog post on the NIH’s website, writing that “this study leaves little room to refute a natural origin for COVID-19.”

In April 2020, Collins e-mailed Fauci and complained that the lab leak theory continued to gain traction.

“Wondering if there is something NIH can do to help put down this very destructive conspiracy theory, with what seems to be growing momentum,” Collins wrote to Fauci on April 16, 2020. “I hoped the Nature Medicine article on the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 would settle this. But probably didn’t get much visibility. Anything more we can do?”

On April 17, 2020, Fauci responded: “I would not do anything about this right now. It is a shiny object that will go away in times [sic].” Later that day, however, Fauci referenced the Proximal Origin paper from the White House podium in response to a reporter’s question on the origin of the virus.

What Fauci didn’t mention at the podium was the fact that the Proximal Origin paper grew out of a series of confidential discussions between top scientists and high-ranking government officials, including Fauci himself, during the early days of the pandemic. Many key details from those confidential discussions were not made known to the public until FOIA requests and lawsuits pried them loose from the NIH beginning in 2021.

The Nation noted:

The FOIA records show that in late January and February 2020, several top virologists expressed their serious concerns to Fauci, Collins, and others about the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 had been engineered or otherwise emerged from a laboratory. These concerns sparked a series of urgent and confidential conversations among a group of virologists and biologists, as well as Fauci, Collins, the UK-based scientist Jeremy Farrar, and other influential health officials. The discussions included a close look at the unusual features of the virus and also included speculation about what type of laboratory work might have caused the virus’s emergence. Within days of the group’s initial February 1 teleconference, several scientists in the group began circulating a document that would eventually evolve into the final Proximal Origin paper. By the time the final version of the paper was published in mid-March 2020, the scientists had discarded concerns about genetic engineering, and they deemed any laboratory-based scenario implausible.

Republicans on the committee sought to lay out their case on Tuesday that the Proximal Origin paper was unduly influenced by government officials like Fauci, that it was marred by politics, and that it was meant to downplay the damaging possibility that Covid-19 may have emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has a history of U.S. government funding. The title of Tuesday’s hearing was: “Investigating the Proximal Origin of a Cover Up.”

“This is not an attack on science. It is not an attack on peer review. And it’s not an attack on an individual,” said the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio. “We are examining whether government officials regardless of who they are unfairly and perhaps biasedly tipped the scales toward a preferred origin theory.”

“Overall,” Wenstrup added, “we are examining whether scientific integrity was disregarded in favor of political expediency, maybe to conceal or diminish the government’s relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology…or maybe to avoid blaming China for any complicity intended or otherwise in a pandemic that has killed more than 1 million Americans and has had a crushing effect on all humankind.”

The hearing coincided with the release of a report by the subcommittee devoted to the Proximal Origin paper. The report contains limited screenshots of emails and Slack messages among the authors, laying out its case that the scientists believed one thing in private — that lab escape was likely — while working to produce a paper saying the opposite in public.

(The subcommittee’s files can be found here.)

In other messages, Andersen admitted he found it “strange” that Covid emerged in Wuhan, a city hundreds of miles from rural China where related coronaviruses circulate, despite labeling the lab leak theory a conspiracy.

He said: “Do we have any location information on the bat SARS-like viruses? …I believe RaTG13 is from Yunnan, which is about as far away from Wuhan as you can be and still be in China. What are the chances of finding viruses that are 96 percent identical given that distance? Seems strange given how many SARS-like viruses we have in bats.”

RaTG13 is a bat virus and one of the closest known relatives to the SARS-CoV-2 Covid virus. There were fears that it may have been the ancestor of Covid that was tinkered with in the lab.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology is just a 40-minute drive from the Huanan wet market in China, where the first infections started. Meanwhile, as Andersen pointed out, Wuhan is more than 800 miles from Yunnan, the region where Covid’s relative is indigenous, making natural transmission seem less likely. was routinely suppressed by Big Tech and labeled “conspiracy theorists” by media and politicians for publishing articles including the following:

Related: ‘Five-eyes’ intelligence report: China destroyed lab evidence, May 5, 2020

Related: ‘Unnatural contagion’: Israeli expert breaks with consensus of silence on Wuhan virus, January 13, 2021

Related: Telling clues on Covid origins were diligently ignored by mega media for 17 months, May 30, 2021

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