Establishment journalists have confessed that the mainstream media continued to dismiss the Wuhan lab leak theory because former President Donald Trump and prominent Republican figures pitched its probability to the public.
Until now, the political left has framed the possibility that COVID-19 was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology as racist, fringe, and senseless conspiracy.
However, in recent weeks, the speculation has garnered credence. "The saga has led to yet another reckoning for mainstream media journalists about groupthink and bias in the industry," Fox News quipped about the partisan blind spot.
Pressed on why left-wing reporters lambasted the theory last year for political reasons, several have since admitted that the initial skepticism was in reaction to the theory's GOP origins. ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl suggested Sunday on "This Week" that Republican personalities like Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were cast aside by the press.
"And look some things may be true even if Donald Trump said them," Karl said. "Because Trump was saying so much else, that was just out of control, and because he was, you know, making a frankly racist appeal talking about Kung Flu, and the China Virus, he said flatly this came from that lab, and it was widely dismissed [...] but now serious people are saying it needs a serious inquiry."
Karl, among the masses, have placed blame on Trump as to why the theory wasn't believed at first, asserting that the former commander-in-chief and the Trump administration were also untruthful regarding other matters.
New York Times writer David Leonhardt conceded Sunday that the theory was disparaged because it was proposed by Trump and firebrand Republicans like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, an ally of Trump and longtime critic of China.
"I think people made this mistake. I think a lot of people on the political left and a lot of people in the media made the mistake," Leonhardt told "Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter on CNN. "They said, 'Wow, if Tom Cotton is saying something, it can't be true.' Or they assumed that. And that's not right."
The segment's chyron read: "Is news coverage behind the COVID-19 curve?"
The theory has been "re-evaluated," Stelter acknowledged, asking Leonhardt to explain why the media was mistaken. Leonhardt admitted that several news outlets refused to believe that any statement from Cotton's mouth could be truthful because he's conservative. "Tom Cotton does deal in disinformation," Leonhardt alleged, but added "that doesn't mean that everything he says is wrong."
NBC moderator Chuck Todd addressed the issue Sunday on "Meet The Press," stating that "for many," the theory was "tangled up in politics" and conflated with one particular theory that the Chinese released the virus for deliberate reasons.
While interviewing former Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, Todd suggested that anti-China rhetoric was to blame for the media's mistake.
"Did in some ways, the sort of irrational attacks on China, did that slow down efforts of the intelligence community to actually do some fact-finding?" Todd asked. "Well, look, I think what slowed down efforts more than anything else were the early statements that were published by a few scientists dismissing the idea that it could have come out of a lab," Pottinger answered Todd. "And in fact, caricaturing people who thought that it might have come out of a lab."
Todd asked if Pottinger's former boss, Trump, contributed to the hysteria. "Well, you know, there are political mistakes that lead to, to, you know, trouble in government. And then there are institutional shortcomings," Pottinger replied.
New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman said on CNN last week:
"I think it is important to remember that part of the issue is when this was first being reported on and discussed back a few months after the pandemic had begun, was that [Trump and Pompeo] suggested they've seen evidence that this was formed in a lab and they also suggested that is was not released on purpose."
But the two "refused to release the evidence showing what it was and so because of that made this instantly political," Haberman alleged further. "It was example 1000 when the Trump administration learned, when you burn your own credibility over and over again, people are not going to believe you, especially in an election year. However, that does not mean it’s not worth discussing."
In the new fact-check timeline that declared that the lab theory "suddenly became credible," Washington Post's head "fact-checker" Glenn Kessler wrote Tuesday: "The Trump administration's messaging was often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims."
Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake wrote an analysis titled, "The vexing 'lab leak' theory on China and the coronavirus," in which he defended dismissive reporters. "Given everything we know about how Trump handled such things, caution and skepticism were invited. That (very much warranted) caution and skepticism spilled over into some oversimplification, particularly when it came to summarizing the often more circumspect reporting," Blake penned last Monday.
Vox updated an article from March to include editor's notes about why the theory is no longer 100 percent "debunked." On last Monday, the site noted that "scientific consensus has shifted" now that "some experts say the 'lab leak' theory warrants an investigation, along with the natural origin theory." Language in the article was updated in April 2020 to "reflect scientific thinking." A day later, Vox elaborated that the previous editor's note was added to "acknowledge language changes that were made last April and to clarify the current scientific thinking around the lab leak theory, which has continued to evolve."
Todd Zwillich, deputy Washington bureau chief for Vice News and former guest host for NPR's 1A radio show, said Trump and conservative media weren't discussing the lab leak hypothesis in "good faith." Zwillich claimed that COVID-19's origins were "slathered...in self-protective misinformation, conspiracies and lies from the start." He said, "To pretend the lab leak hypothesis was put forward in good faith by honest actors and ignored by journalists is revisionist [bullsh*t.]"
Trump reacted to the media development Tuesday, trumpeting that the press was now saying he "was right" all along. "To me it was obvious from the beginning..." Trump wrote on the former president's own Twitter-style blog where he broadcasts thoughts to the world. The interface itself comes equipped with options to share posts to Facebook and Twitter, Big Tech platforms where he remains banned.