Tucker Carlson has been ahead of the curve on coronavirus coverage. Earlier this month he did a segment arguing that, contrary to what some other Fox hosts were saying at the time, the coronavirus was much worse than the flu. He was right. More recently, Carlson argued that it was obvious everyone should start wearing masks to protect themselves and others, contrary to the word from health officials.
On last night’s show, Carlson raised another hot topic related to the virus: It’s origin. The story we’ve all heard many times is that the virus arose from bats in a wet market in Wuhan. Carlson points out a Chinese research paper which suggested it’s more likely the virus arose from one of two nearby labs.
It’s important to note what the Chinese paper (and Carlson) are not saying. They are not saying that this was a) intentional or b) some kind of escaped bio-weapon. What the Chinese paper claims, based on interviews with dozens of people who frequented the wet market in Wuhan, is that horseshoe bats were not available for sale there. The paper also claims there are no natural colonies of those bats within 900 miles of the market. However, two labs in the same city were using those bats for research. So the suggestion is that the virus may have made its way to the market from someone who had initially been exposed to blood and tissue of the bats in one of those labs.
Carlson admits it is impossible to confirm any of this at this point. China is still claiming the origin of the virus is unknown or perhaps that it arose in the U.S. So getting a straight answer from the CCP is not an option. And since the market was shut down back in January, there’s really no way to go and see what is for sale there. There have been leaked images from the market which show that many wild animals including bats were for sale there. But if the Chinese paper is correct then these specific bats, where the virus almost certainly originated, weren’t among them.
As Carlson notes, there has been a lot of push back to internet claims that the virus was some kind of escaped bio-weapon. As Live Science reported in March, the evidence suggests this is not the case.
SARS-CoV-2 is very closely related to the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which fanned across the globe nearly 20 years ago. Scientists have studied how SARS-CoV differs from SARS-CoV-2 — with several key letter changes in the genetic code. Yet in computer simulations, the mutations in SARS-CoV-2 don’t seem to work very well at helping the virus bind to human cells. If scientists had deliberately engineered this virus, they wouldn’t have chosen mutations that computer models suggest won’t work. But it turns out, nature is smarter than scientists, and the novel coronavirus found a way to mutate that was better — and completely different— from anything scientists could have created, the study found.
Another nail in the “escaped from evil lab” theory? The overall molecular structure of this virus is distinct from the known coronaviruses and instead most closely resembles viruses found in bats and pangolins that had been little studied and never known to cause humans any harm.
“If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness,” according to a statement from Scripps.
So the “evil lab” theory doesn’t hold up, but again that’s not what the Chinese paper claimed. It claimed the virus escaped accidentally from the only source of such bats known to exist in the area, a lab using them for research. A story published by the New York Post in March pointed out that viruses have escaped from Chinese labs before. And some scientists have been convicted in the past of selling their experimental animals to wildlife markets when they are done with them as a way to make extra money:
Some Chinese researchers are in the habit of selling their laboratory animals to street vendors after they have finished experimenting on them.
You heard me right.
Instead of properly disposing of infected animals by cremation, as the law requires, they sell them on the side to make a little extra cash. Or, in some cases, a lot of extra cash. One Beijing researcher, now in jail, made a million dollars selling his monkeys and rats on the live animal market, where they eventually wound up in someone’s stomach.
There was a rumor that something similar may have happened in this case but the people involved have denied it. According to Chinese officials, the first person who is believed to have had the coronavirus in early December was a man named Chen who denied having gone to the market:
Wuhan’s government announced last month that the first confirmed case was a person surnamed Chen who fell sick on Dec. 8 but had fully recovered and been discharged from the hospital. The person denied going to the Hua’nan market, it said.
Wu Wenjuan, a doctor at Wuhan’s Jinyintan Hospital, which specializes in infectious diseases and handled many of the early cases, confirmed in a phone interview that among the earliest cases were four people in the same family, including a 49-year-old Hua’nan market vendor and his father-in-law. The vendor got sick on Dec. 12, while the father-in-law, who had no exposure to the market, fell ill seven days later, according to a study by Chinese disease control researchers.
Ms. Wei, the market vendor who fell sick on Dec. 10, first sought help at a small private clinic across the street from her home.
What is clear is that the virus originated from a specific type of bat and in early December it was spreading among people at the Wuhan wet market. Exactly how and when the first leap from animal to human happened is still not completely clear. There’s no reason to think it was designed or intentionally released but it’s worth asking if it could have happened by accident. Another thing we can be sure of is that we can’t take China’s word for anything. If covering up an accident serves their PR goals, they will lie.
Here’s the Tucker Carlson segment: