Reporter’s early scoop on Covid origins branded ‘false’ for over a year

by WorldTribune Staff, February 24, 2021

On Jan. 26, 2020, The Washington Times ran an article by national security correspondent Bill Gertz headlined “Coronavirus may have originated in lab linked to China’s biowarfare program”.

Gertz’s report quoted former Israeli military intelligence officer Dany Shoham, an expert on biological warfare who had studied China’s germ weapons program, as saying the Wuhan Institute of Virology was known to do military work — a claim that at the time was still being denied by the communist Chinese government. The virus, Shoham said, could have leaked from the institute’s secure lab.

Security personnel outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology / Reuters

“As of today, every word of my story has been confirmed,” Gertz noted in a Feb. 23 analysis.

More than a year after the report (which can be read here), Facebook and its “fact-checker,” USA Today, have acknowledged that Gertz’s report was entirely accurate. “Yet — inexplicably — they still label the questions raised in my story about the Wuhan lab as ‘partly false, ‘ ” Gertz noted.

“The greatest threat this past year is this virus that has killed two-and-a-half million people around the globe. We will never get to the truth about the origins of this pandemic or how to prevent the next one as long as Facebook, USAToday and other major media companies collaborate to silence and smear anyone seeking to report the truth,” Gertz wrote.

When the article was first published, Facebook and its so-called “fact-checkers” immediately sprang into action to scrub the Internet of any reference to it. They labeled it as “false” and dismissed it as a “conspiracy theory.”

Later, Facebook went even further. Gertz noted that the social media company’s “censorship police” contacted the editors of the Washington Times to insist the article be removed for supposedly spreading false information about the coronavirus.

As justification, Facebook cited a March 21, 2020, “fact check” by USA Today reporter Mollie Stollino, who concluded that Gertz’s article was “one of the most prominent examples of false information” about the coronavirus and its possible links to the Chinese government.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the virus was created in a Chinese laboratory,” Stollino wrote.

When Gertz objected, he said USA Today issued an update and removed the characterization that the article was “an example of false information.”

But the updated “fact-check” still insisted that the theory that the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan lab had been “debunked as false” by “scientists.”

Several reports, intelligence operatives and former U.S. officials have since stated there is a strong likelihood the virus originated and escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The U.S. State Department published a report last month on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was supposedly a civilian laboratory. The report offered previously undisclosed evidence that the case for the lab leak theory was circumstantial but strong. The U.S. government’s conclusion is that the origin of the virus cannot be determined because of the extreme secrecy of the Chinese government.

The report, “Fact Sheet: Activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” explained, “We have not determined whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.”

The fact sheet revealed that workers at the Wuhan institute had become sickened with COVID-19-like symptoms in the autumn of 2019 — before the first cases of the disease began appearing at Wuhan hospitals. Further, the report for the first time revealed that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) had been conducting secret military experiments for two years prior to the outbreak.

“Despite the WIV presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the WIV has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military,” the report said. “The WIV has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.”

Gertz noted: “This is precisely what was so important about my original report over a year ago.”

The State Department’s report said researchers at the institute conducted experiments with a bat coronavirus called RaTG13 that is 96.2 percent similar to the coronavirus behind the pandemic, adding that the institute “has not been transparent or consistent” about its past research into viruses similar to Covid-19.

The USA Today would later update its “fact-check” on Gertz’s original story, describing it as “one of the most prominent initial reports” suggesting that the virus may have originated in the Wuhan lab. But it still went on to insist the lab leak reports are a “conspiracy.”

“Amazingly, USA Today — as well as Facebook — continues running interference on behalf of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the communist Chinese government,” Gertz wrote. “While USA Today quietly revised their story yet again this week to include the government report, the newspaper remains adamant about dispelling questions into the lab.”

Said USA Today senior editor Martina Stewart: “Based on the latest State Department document, there is still no evidence that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory, just as there is no decisive evidence to disprove that theory.”

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