Fox News has an exclusive report based on anonymous sources who claim the coronavirus originated from a Wuhan research laboratory.
COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan laboratory not as a bioweapon, but as part of China’s effort to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States, multiple sources who have been briefed on the details of early actions by China’s government and seen relevant materials tell Fox News.
This may be the “costliest government coverup of all time,” one of the sources said.
The sources believe the initial transmission of the virus was bat-to-human, and that “patient zero” worked at the laboratory, then went into the population in Wuhan…
Documents detail early efforts by doctors at the lab and early efforts at containment. The Wuhan wet market initially identified as a possible point of origin never sold bats, and the sources tell Fox News that blaming the wet market was an effort by China to deflect blame from the laboratory, along with the country’s propaganda efforts targeting the U.S. and Italy.
The claim that the wet market never sold bats is in line with a since retracted Chinese research paper which claimed exactly that.
This afternoon, Fox News’ White House correspondent John Roberts was even more specific about what the sources were saying when he asked President Trump a question about the story.
“Multiple sources are telling Fox News today that the United States government now has high confidence that while the coronavirus is a naturally occurring virus it emanated from a virology lab in Wuhan,” Roberts said. He added, “That because of lax safety protocols an intern was infected who later infected her boyfriend and then went to the wet market in Wuhan where it began to spread. Does that correspond with what you have heard from officials?”
“Well, I don’t want to say that, John, but I will tell you, more and more we’re hearing the story and we’ll see,” Trump replied adding, “We are doing a very thorough investigation of this horrible situation.”
Roberts pressed Trump by asking if he’d ever discussed “State Department concerns about lax safety protocols” with President Xi Jinping. That was apparently a reference to State Department cables which a Washington Post reporter described yesterday as expressing concern about lax security at a Wuhan viral laboratory.
“I don’t want to discuss what I talked to him about the laboratory,” Trump said, saying it was inappropriate.
You can watch the exchange in the clip below. Several things jump out to me. First, Trump did not sound even a little surprised by the question. I’m not suggesting he knew the question was coming but he certainly didn’t seem unfamiliar with the content of the claim being made about the origin of the virus. He reacted as if he’d heard this before.
Second, Trump refused to discuss what he’d talked about with President Xi Jinping but the way he did it was the opposite of a denial. In fact, he more or less confirmed that the laboratory was a topic of conversation at some point, he just refused to offer any detail. I don’t know if that was accidental but it certainly invites more questions.
Third, the language John Roberts used in his question is the analytic confidence language used by U.S. intelligence agencies. His use of that language here suggests the anonymous sources are speaking on the basis of an analytic report from the CIA, NSA or other agency.
The Fox News story notes that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was asked about the possibility the virus came from a lab just yesterday (by a different Fox News reporter, Jennifer Griffin). I wrote about that here. Gen. Milley replied, “It should be no surprise to you that we’ve take a keen interest in that and we’ve had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that.” That fact that intel agencies were looking hard at this jibes with the idea that Fox News is getting this, directly or otherwise, from those agencies.
However, there’s a possible disconnect between what Fox News is reporting today and what Gen. Milley said yesterday. “I would just say at this point it’s inconclusive although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural, but we don’t know for certain,” Milley said.
That could be taken to rule out the idea of an engineered (unnatural) virus, but the question Milley was asked was whether this virus could have been released by a lab in Wuhan “accidentally.” So in that context he seemed to be suggesting that the weight of evidence supported the idea it had arisen naturally, i.e. in a wet market not in a lab. Did something change between yesterday and today or was Milley answer imprecise?
Someone is leaking a lot of this information to reporters. We’ll have to wait and see what it’s based on. But obviously if it’s true that China knew this came from a lab and intentionally covered up the source, that would explain why they have been so energetic in trying to fuzz up the origins of the virus.
Update: Here’s Bret Baier’s report on this.
Update: CNN reports intel agencies are looking into the possibility of a lab accident but that this hasn’t been corroborated:
US intelligence and national security officials say the United States government is looking into the possibility that the novel coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory rather than a market, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter who caution it is premature to draw any conclusions…
An intelligence official familiar with the government analysis said a theory US intelligence officials are investigating is that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and was accidentally released to the public. Other sources told CNN that US intelligence hasn’t been able to corroborate the theory but is trying to discern whether someone was infected in the lab through an accident or poor handling of materials and may have then infected others.
This sounds more like what Gen. Milley said Tuesday. But this version has none of the specific detail mentioned by John Roberts in his question to the president, i.e. the intern who became infected and passed it to his girlfriend. So where is that story coming from? Are CNN’s sources not fully in the loop or are Roberts’ sources offering some kind of example of what might have happened?