“A lot of people have egg on their face” for dismissing the COVID-19 lab leak theory, tweeted ABC News ‘ Jonathan Karl this week. “Some things may be true even if Donald Trump said them.”
Or if Arkansas Tom Cotton did. “We still don’t know where coronavirus originated. Could have been a market, a farm, a food processing company,” he said in January 2020. “I would note that Wuhan has China’s only biosafety level-four super laboratory that works with the world’s most deadly pathogens to include, yes, coronavirus.”
Cotton never said he was certain the virus came from a lab leak and never suggested a leak was deliberate. But as a Trump supporter, he was quickly smeared, as liberal writer Matthew Yglesias shows in a painstaking analysis — for pushing “conspiracy theories” (CBS News), “spreading rumors that were easily debunked” (Politico), “repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked” (Washington Post), and “repeat(ing) fringe theory of coronavirus origins” (New York Times).
In each case, Yglesias points out, writers mischaracterized what Cotton said. “Media coverage of lab leak was a debacle,” writes New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, “and a major source of that failure was Groupthink cultivated on Twitter.”
One newsroom attitude was revealed by a tweet from New York Times COVID-19 reporter Apoorva Mandavilli. “Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not yet here yet.” Her assumption that one could doubt China’s dictatorial and deceptive regime only out of anti-Asian prejudice shows the vacuous ignorance and vicious bigotry that Times management apparently values these days.