On Covid, a “strange new respect” for Tom Cotton, but not enough

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s fact checker, has written an article called “Timeline: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible.” The title itself needs to be fact checked against the content of Kessler’s piece. Kessler’s timeline shows that the leak theory was always credible. What’s changed is that the theory now can be deemed very likely true.

Our friend Sen. Tom Cotton takes center stage in the introduction to Kessler’s piece. The “fact checker” writes:

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) from the start pointed to the lab’s location in Wuhan, pressing China for answers, so the history books will reward him if he turns out to be right.

But Cotton indisputably was right about the lab’s location in Wuhan and right to press China for answers. That’s clear from the timeline. He already has “turned out to be right.”

Kessler’s incoherent sentence manifests the grudging nature of his respect for Cotton’s contribution. It is consistent with, though less egregious than, the Post’s unjust disparagement of Cotton on the subject.

Kessler’s timeline acknowledges that disparagement, but understates it. The Post article he links to proclaimed: “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked.” Keep this in mind the next time you read in the Post that something a conservative says has been debunked.

Donald Trump also makes an appearance in the preface to Kessler’s timeline:

The Trump administration also sought to highlight the lab scenario but generally could only point to vague intelligence. The Trump administration’s messaging was often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims.

Why should the Post and others of its ideological bent have ignored Trump’s claim because he used anti-China rhetoric? Is China a sacred cow for the left?

The Post didn’t ignore claims that Trump colluded with Russia even though those claims were often accompanied by anti-Russia rhetoric and always by anti-Trump rhetoric.

Kessler seems to be excusing those who dismissed an always-plausible theory of the origin of the Wuhan coronavirus. Trump’s claims were ignored because they came from Trump, not because of anti-China rhetoric. But Kessler doesn’t seem to entertain this possibility.

Kessler characterizes his timeline this way:

In some instances, important information was available from the start but was generally ignored. But in other cases, some experts fought against the conventional wisdom and began to build a credible case, rooted in science, that started to change people’s minds. This has led to renewed calls for a real investigation into the lab’s activities before the coronavirus emerged.

(Emphasis added)

Again, the case for believing that the virus came from a Chinese lab was always credible. Kessler’s first sentence basically acknowledges as much.

That first sentence is for me the most important story that emerges from Kessler’s timeline. Consider:

Feb. 19: A statement is published in Lancet by a group of 27 scientists: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that covid-19 does not have a natural origin,” the statement says. Scientists “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.” The statement was drafted and organized by Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, which funded research at WIV with U.S. government grants. (Three of the signers have since said a laboratory accident is plausible enough to merit consideration.)

March 17: An analysis published in Nature Medicine by an influential group of scientists states: “Although the evidence shows that SARSCoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus, it is currently impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin described here. However, since we observed all notable SARS-CoV-2 features, including the optimized RBD [receptor- binding domain] and polybasic cleavage site, in related coronaviruses in nature, we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”

Feb. 9 [of this year]: A joint report by the World Health Organization and China declares: “The findings suggest that the laboratory incident hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain introduction of the virus into the human population.”

(Emphasis added)

Keep these damning excerpts in mind the next time someone tries to settle an argument by insisting that we “follow the science.” Or by citing the World Health Organization.

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