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Washington Post quietly edits 2020 report that had branded Covid-19 origin from a Wuhan lab as ‘debunked conspiracy theory’

In its article published on February 17, 2020, the Washington Post had described Senator Cotton's claim as "debunked" and a "conspiracy theory." Now, after earlier claims of 'natural origin' for the Wuhan virus face wide scientific scrutiny, the Post has corrected its report.

The Washington Post has issued a correction on its 2020 report, which criticised Republican Senator Tom Cotton for defending the claim that the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

As scientists and health experts worldwide discuss the possible lab origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Washington Post has silently edited out one of its reports that had debunked Senator Cotton’s assertion about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic by dismissing it as a “conspiracy theory”.

Senator Tom Cotton, along with former President Trump, had spoken about the possibility of Covid-19 originating from a lab leak in Wuhan, China, in 2019. Speaking to Fox News, Republican Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton had pointed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a potential origin of the disease.

“We don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that,” Cotton had said, adding, “We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.”

In its article published on February 17, 2020, the Washington Post had described Senator Cotton’s claim as “debunked” and a “conspiracy theory.”

WaPo’s initial report published on February 17,2020/ Image Source: Greg Price

Responding to Cotton’s statements, the Post had written a report with an original headline from February 17, 2020, that read, “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked.” In the earlier report, Post had dismissed the lab leak theories of Covid-19 by saying that Senator Cotton was repeating a conspiracy theory.

Washington Post edits its headline, deletes its reference to ‘conspiracy theory’

Fifteen months later, as lab leak theories are gaining renewed attention, and with President Biden announcing a probe to look into the possibility of the lab leak of the Covid-19, Washington Post has quietly edited its previous report that questioned Senator Cotton’s similar claims.

The headline has now been corrected on Tuesday to read, “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus fringe theory that scientists have disputed”.

Edited headline by Washington Post/ Image Source: Grey Price

The Post has also issued a statement with the correction that said the Post’s use of the words “debunked” and “conspiracy theory” has “been removed because, then as now, there was no determination about the origins of the virus.”

In the article, the Post has altered the world “conspiracy theory” to refer to Cotton’s claims as “fringe”. It also changed the reference to “debunked” to refer to his theories as “disputed”.

“Earlier versions of this story and its headline inaccurately characterized comments by Senator Tom Cotton regarding the origins of the coronavirus. The term ‘debunked’ and The Post’s use of ‘conspiracy theory’ have been removed because, then as now, there was no determination about the origins of the virus,” the editor’s note read.

Many US leaders have spoken against the ‘media dishonesty’. They have called out the US media for perpetuating a false narrative and setting down voices that demanded truth.

Correction comes amidst a change in scientists and experts’ opinion on the origin of Covid-19

The correction by the Washington Post comes after multiple scientists and experts have said it was not possible to rule out the theory that the coronavirus may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 

Earlier, many publications, including the Washington Post, had downplayed or outrightly rejected the lab leak possibility despite several facts that had pointed to the possibility of a Covid-19 lab leak since early 2020. The revision comes after several prominent public health officials, including Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House medical advisor, admitted that they lacked the information necessary to rule out a lab- leak.

Fauci has since publicly shifted his tone, acknowledging in recent days that the virus may indeed have come from a lab. Until recently, Fauci said it is “highly likely” that the coronavirus has a natural origin. However, a few days back, Fauci finally admitted that he was “not convinced” that coronavirus developed naturally.

Those comments came after World Health Organization (WHO) director Tedros Adhanom had revealed that his organisation’s investigative team, which had earlier dismissed the lab-leak theory as unlikely, had not sufficiently investigated the possibility.

After refuting the possibility for almost a year, the Biden administration finally accepted the theory as plausible after an investigative report revealed that three researchers at the WIV were hospitalised with symptoms consistent with Covid-19 in November 2019, a month before China said it recorded the first confirmed case.

Following the backlash, President Joe Biden subsequently directed US intelligence agencies to determine the likely cause of the virus and report their findings within 90 days.

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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