A renowned scientist who led the condemnation of the Covid lab leak theory privately believed it was “highly likely”, leaked messages show. The Mail has the story.
Dr. Kristian Andersen, a Danish evolutionary biologist, co-authored a now-notorious research paper published in March 2020 that denounced the [lab] origin scenario as a conspiracy theory and xenophobic.
Yet Slack messages obtained by DailyMail.com show how just weeks before the publication of that paper, Dr. Andersen told colleagues the idea of a lab leak was “not some fringe theory” and was, in fact, “highly likely” the genesis of the pandemic.
Separate, publicly-available communications between the virologist and his co-authors show how the group backed the natural origin theory – the idea the virus jumped from an animal to a person in the wild – for “political” reasons and feared pinning the blame on the Chinese lab would cause a “s***show” and threaten future funding of virus manipulation research.
Critics say the messages show how the scientific community conspired to censor debate about the origins of the pandemic, but the scientists involved claim they changed their minds between sending the messages and writing the paper.
Dr. Andersen and the other scientists involved in publishing ‘The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2‘ paper on March 17th 2020, were asked to testify before the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on Tuesday.
But only Dr. Andersen and co-author Dr. Robert Garry, a respected microbiologist who works at Tulane University in New Orleans, actually did.
House Republicans grilled the two doctors [watch here], citing the newly disclosed communications between researchers in early 2020 as evidence of a cover-up – something the scientists strongly refuted.
Some of the messages were published as part of a Government report released early Tuesday before the hearing. DailyMail.com was able to obtain extra messages not revealed in the report.
House Republicans pointed to the scientists’ efforts to probe Covid’s origins in the document, which they say amounted to blatantly squashing voices that advocated for more serious inquiry into the theory that the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
In a message sent on February 2nd 2020, Dr Andersen said:
The main issue is that accidental escape is in fact highly likely – it’s not some fringe theory.
I absolutely agree that we can’t prove one way or the other, but we never will be able to – however, that doesn’t mean that by default the data is currently much more suggestive of a natural origin as opposed to e.g. passage. It’s not…
In other messages, Dr. Andersen admitted he found it “strange” that Covid emerged in Wuhan, a city hundreds of miles from rural China where related coronaviruses circulate, despite labeling the lab leak theory a conspiracy.
He said: “Do we have any location information on the bat SARS-like viruses? … I believe RaTG13 is from Yunnan, which is about as far away from Wuhan as you can be and still be in China. What are the chances of finding viruses that are 96% identical given that distance? Seems strange given how many SARS-like viruses we have in bats.”
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Prominent gain-of-function critic Professor Richard H. Ebright responded to the revelations on Twitter, noting that Dr. Andersen’s comments calling a lab leak scenario “highly likely” came after he had written the first draft of the ‘Proximal Origin’ paper denouncing the theory as a baseless conspiracy.