Dr. Peter Daszak, a leading expert on disease ecology, reportedly 26 other scientists to sign off on a letter he had written at the beginning of the pandemic last year that claims the virus had no lab origins to suggest so created "fear, rumors, and prejudice," the Daily Mail reports.
In Daszak’s letter, he denied that the virus could have origins in Wuhan, China lab, and said that that was merely a "conspiracy theory."
Daszak reportedly had close ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where the virus is rumored to have leaked from, through EcoHealth Alliance, a company Daszak runs.
The New York-based, tax payer-funded nonprofit company reportedly funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where Daszak worked closely with Shi Zhengli, a researcher studying coronaviruses in bats.
"The letter was seen as so influential it cowed most experts into refusing even to consider that the virus could have been man-made and escaped from the Wuhan Institute," wrote the Daily Mail. "And it is only now, nearly 16 months after that letter was published in the journal The Lancet, that that theory is being looked at seriously."
Jamie Metzl, a World Health Organization's advisory committee on human genome editing member and a former Bill Clinton administration staffer, called Daszak’s letter "a form of thuggery."
"The Lancet letter was scientific propaganda and a form of thuggery and intimidation," said Metzl. "By labelling anyone with different views a conspiracy theorist, the Lancet letter was the worst form of bullying in full contravention of the scientific method."
Through a FOIA request by the Daily Mail, it was revealed that Daszak told signatories of the letter that it would not be sent under the EcoHealth logo "and will not be identifiable as coming from any one organization of person."
Daszak’s letter, titled Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting Covid-19, came out in support of Chinese scientists "who continue to save lives and protect global health during the challenge of the Covid-19 outbreak."
"We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin," the letter continued. "Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors and prejudices that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against the virus."
The letter ended with the words: "We declare no competing interests."
In the wake of how seriously the letter was taken, former CDC director Dr Robert Redfield told Vanity Fair that he had received death threats for suggested that the virus was manmade.
"I was threatened and ostracized because I proposed another hypothesis. I expected it from politicians. I didn’t expect it from science," said Redfield.
Earlier this year, Daszak was selected by the World Health Organization to be part of the 13-member team investigating the origins of the pandemic in Wuhan China, a position that Metzl says Daszak shouldn’t have been given.
Metzl said that it was a "massive and outrageous conflict of interest" to give Daszak a seat on the team, due to EcoHealth’s funding of the Wuhan lab.
"As a funder of research at the WIV, Peter should have had absolutely no role as a member of the independent expert committee," said Metzl.
It was revealed recently with the release of thousands of Dr Anthony Fauci's emails that Daszak had thanked the NIAID director for dismissing claims that the virus had leaked from a lab.