New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman and others appeared to blame former President Donald Trump Tuesday for making the Wuhan lab-leak theory political and thus the reason why reporters didn’t find the theory credible.
During a segment on CNN, Haberman responded to anchor John Berman’s statement about how reporters went from dismissing the possibility of COVID-19 escaping a Wuhan lab as a “conspiracy theory” to now giving serious credence to the idea.
“I think it is important to remember that part of the issue is when this was first being reported on and discussed back a few months after the pandemic had begun, was that then President Trump and Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, suggested they’ve seen evidence that this was formed in a lab and they also suggested that is was not released on purpose. But they refused to release the evidence showing what it was and so because of that made this instantly political,” Haberman said.
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Haberman said the Trump administration “burned their credibility over and over again.”
“I also think it is important to remember because I think it is getting reframed in a way that is just not true to what happened, and I don’t mean here, but by this broader debate by Trump supporters about what happened when this was originally raised,” she said.
Haberman isn’t the only reporter to place blame at Trump for news outlets not taking the lab leak theory seriously.
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Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake wrote an analysis titled, “The vexing ‘lab leak’ theory on China and the coronavirus,” in which he defended reporters dismissing the Trump administration claims that there was a high probability the virus originated in a lab.
“Given everything we know about how Trump handled such things, caution and skepticism were invited. That (very much warranted) caution and skepticism spilled over into some oversimplification, particularly when it came to summarizing the often more circumspect reporting,” Blake wrote.
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler also came to the defense of the media’s initial skepticism of Trump’s claims in a separate article Tuesday.
“The Trump administration’s messaging was often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims,” Kessler wrote.
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In May 2020, Kessler said it was “virtually impossible” for the virus to originate from a lab. When Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., suggested the coronavirus was connected to research being done in Wuhan, China, the Washington Post said Cotton was pushing a “fringe theory.”
Todd Zwillich, deputy Washington bureau chief for Vice News and former guest host for NPR’s 1A radio show, said Trump and conservative media weren’t discussing the lab leak hypothesis in “good faith.”
While the lab-leak theory was initially labeled a conspiracy theory amongst mainstream reporters, it has since gained credence with more experts saying it’s possible or even likely. Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said he is “not convinced” the novel coronavirus developed naturally.
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Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield told CNN in March that he believed the most likely possibility was the virus escaped from a lab.
Trump reacted to the media development on Tuesday, declaring the media was now saying he “was right” all along.