Scientists at center of Covid lab leak cover-up feared s***show from China

High-profile scientists caught up in the controversy over Covid’s origins have admitted the decision to play down the lab leak theory was political.

Internal Slack communications obtained by a House subcommittee investigating the early days of the pandemic showed how scientists who wrote a paper dismissing the idea of a lab accident feared retribution from the Chinese government.

Dr Andrew Rambaut, a biologist at the University of Edinburgh, was a co-author of the March 2020 Nature Medicine research article titled ‘The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2’ which degenerated believers of the lab leak theory as conspiracy theorists and racists.

Private messages show Dr Rambaut feared pinning the blame on China for ‘even accidental release’ of the virus would cause a geopolitical ‘s*** show’, and so he was ‘content with ascribing it to natural process.’

One respondent to that message was Danish biologist Dr Kristian Andersen, a Danish evolutionary biologist and co-author of the paper, who said in response to Dr Rambaut that he ‘totally agree[s] that that’s a very reasonable conclusion’, adding: ‘Although I hate when politics is injected into science – but it’s impossible not to, especially given the circumstances.’

Private messages show Dr Rambaut feared pinning the blame on China for ¿even accidental release¿ of the virus would cause a geopolitical ¿s*** show¿, and so he was ¿content with ascribing it to natural process'

Private messages show Dr Rambaut feared pinning the blame on China for ‘even accidental release’ of the virus would cause a geopolitical ‘s*** show’, and so he was ‘content with ascribing it to natural process’

Dr Kristian Andersen, from Scripps Research, gave evidence during a hearing with the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic on Capitol Hill on July 11, 2023 in Washington, DC

Dr Kristian Andersen, from Scripps Research, gave evidence during a hearing with the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic on Capitol Hill on July 11, 2023 in Washington, DC

Dr Robert Garry (left), a Professor at Tulane University School of Medicine, was also present. Members of the committee met to hear testimony from medical researchers on the origins of Covid-19

Dr Robert Garry (left), a Professor at Tulane University School of Medicine, was also present. Members of the committee met to hear testimony from medical researchers on the origins of Covid-19

The notorious proximal origin paper was partly commissioned by Dr Anthony Fauci, who was the then-head of the US’ national research agency that had been funding risky virus research at the lab in Wuhan.

House Republicans grilled two doctors at the center of the fight over whether the coronavirus emerged from nature or a lab in Wuhan today.

They cited the newly disclosed communications between scientists in early 2020 as evidence of a cover-up – something the scientists strongly refuted.

In a report released early Tuesday ahead of the hearing, House Republicans pointed to myriad efforts by the scientists probing Covid’s origins and what they said amounted to blatantly squashing voices that advocated for more serious inquiry into the theory that the virus leaked from the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology. 

The witnesses, Dr Kristian Andersen and Dr Robert Garry co-authored the February 2020 report ‘The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2’, which was published just days after a conference call in which top scientists including Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Francis Collins fielded frantic messages from virologists about the possibility that aspects of the virus appeared man-made.

Internal messages show that even Dr Andersen considered the argument that the genomic makeup of the virus suggested human tampering, though he changed his tune just four days later on February 4 as evidenced by an e-mail Dr Andersen sent to a different crop of scientists recovered by investigative group Right to Know.

In the message, Dr Andersen wrote: ‘The main crackpot theories going around at the moment relate to this virus being somehow engineered with intent and that is demonstrably not the case.’

Dr Andersen also said in a series of now-public response highlighted by the House GOP: ‘Although I hate when politics is injected into science –but its impossible not to, especially given the circumstances. We should be sensitive to that.’

Dr Andersen was told off by Dr Wenstrup for grinning while being asked about his involvement.

Dr Wenstrup said: ‘Grin as you may Dr Andersen, grin as you may.’

Around the same time that the scientists pointed out that pinning the origins of Covid on China would prompt a ‘s*** show’, Dutch scientist Dr Ron Fouchier added concern that furthering debate about a potential lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, whether purposeful or accidental, ‘would do unnecessary harm to science in general and science in China in particular.’

House Republican lawmakers, typically hawkish on China, pounced on what they perceived as being too considerate and conciliatory of the communist party in power there. One such lawmaker, New York Rep Nicole Malliotakis, trained her sights on the incriminating message from Dr Rambaut and said: ‘His concern was would he piss off China, that’s what his concern was.

‘Something happened here [in the brief time between Dr Fauci’s first contact with Dr Andersen in early 2020]. Politicians may flip-flop. Scientists do not flip-flop in a matter of 72 hours.’

While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan - raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread

While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread

Shi Zhengli - dubbed the 'Bat Lady' of 'Bat Woman' for her work on bat coronaviruses - investigated the possibility Covid could have emerged from her lab back in 2020 according to colleagues. Here she is pictured working with other researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2017

Shi Zhengli – dubbed the ‘Bat Lady’ of ‘Bat Woman’ for her work on bat coronaviruses – investigated the possibility Covid could have emerged from her lab back in 2020 according to colleagues. Here she is pictured working with other researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2017

Dr Andersen and Dr Garry refuted that statement by saying they did not flip-flop, but rather learned new information about the virus and altered their hypothesis, a textbook application of the scientific method.

The Republicans’ efforts to nail down where exactly the virus came from, whether that be from a Wuhan wet market selling animals contaminated with the virus or from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, have homed in on exposing the inner workings of scientific authorities like Dr Fauci and Dr Collins – colloquially dubbed by Republicans as ‘the Bethesda Boys’.

The issue has become a largely political one after years of labeling certain scientists, including Dr Fauci and Dr Collins at the center of the debate as overtly biased in favor of theories espoused by many Democrats and government-entrenched scientists.

This includes the theory that Covid-19 likely jumped from an animal intermediary host before infecting humans.

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