Daily US Times: President Donald Trump fans flames of a media theory that the coronavirus pandemic began in the Chinese city of Wuhan when the pathogen accidentally escaped a Chinese laboratory, teasing that “more and more we’re hearing the story”.
Trump’s favorite channel Fox News has reported that ‘multiple sources’ in the American government believe initial transmission of the virus was bat-to-human in a virology lab in Wuhan.
Fox News report says some government officials believed that due to weak laboratory safety protocols, an infected lab worker then went to a wet market where the virus spread.
The channel’s reporter John Roberts put this to Trump in the daily White House press briefing on Wednesday, he replied: “Well, I don’t want to say that John, but I will tell you more and more we’re hearing the story.”
The president is notorious for recycling content from Fox News in his remarks or tweets. It is still unclear whether he was privy to any other information to back the claim.
“We’ll see. When you say ‘multiple sources’, now there’s a case where you can use the word ‘sources’. But we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened,” he added.
Trump said that he did not want to disclose any discussions he had with the Chinese president about the laboratory.
Earlier this week, Pentagon’s top general, Mark Milley, cast doubt on the lab theory, saying that US intelligence has looked into the possibility but that the “weight of evidence” thus far pointed towards “natural” origins.
Since the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan late last year, more extreme conspiracy theories have suggested that it was engineered as a bioweapon, though there is no evidence for this.
The scientific journal the Lancet has stated the virus appears to have come from wildlife. An analysis by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology suggests that the virus’s genome is 96% similar to a coronavirus found in bats.
But the story running on Fox News begins by stating that the virus has begun ‘not as bioweapon’, alleging incompetence rather than a planned or malicious attack.
The idea has gained more attention, especially among anti-China hardliners in Washington.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the state department cables had warned two years ago of safety issues at a Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses.
“The cables have fueled discussions inside the US government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus – even though conclusive proof has yet to emerge,” the Post said.