Jun 10 2021

Sen. Lindsey Graham: COVID lab leak raises serious questions about politicization of science, 2020 election

We know that COVID-19 is deadly, but after more than 15 months in which COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our life, there remain many things about COVID-19 that we don’t know.

Did it come directly from nature, a lab leak in Wuhan, or some mixture of the two? Did science become politicized?  Why didn’t American scientists, many of whom immediately raised the concerns about a Wuhan lab leak when COVID-19 entered our world, actively pursue further investigation of their concerns?

The more we learn the more troubling these questions become.  In many ways, the situation involving COVID-19’s origins and explanations strikes me much like the now-discredited Steele dossier, which served as the legal basis for the Mueller investigation of President Trump.

In the Steele dossier, former FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok intentionally choose to pursue an outcome, not follow the facts.  Had they conducted a legitimate investigation, Page and Strzok would have quickly realized the Steele dossier was likely a Russian disinformation campaign.  By putting an outcome first – facts be damned – Page and Strzok led the country on a wild goose chase, which ended up accomplishing nothing but eroding trust in the FBI.

Did American scientists follow the Page and Strzok model of pursuing an outcome – there was no Chinese lab leak -- when it came to the origins of COVID-19?

On February 19, 2020, right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of 27 acclaimed scientists penned a letter in The Lancet, an international medical journal, where they spoke out against the ‘conspiracy theory’ of COVID-19 origins:

"We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin," wrote the scientists.  "Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus. We support the call from the Director-General of WHO to promote scientific evidence and unity over misinformation and conjecture. We want you, the science and health professionals of China, to know that we stand with you in your fight against this virus."

We now know that one of the leaders in coordinating The Lancet letter was Dr. Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance.  Daszak is a close collaborator with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and their lead investigator on bat viruses, Shi Zhengli, also known as "Bat Woman."

Daszak has received National Institute of Health (NIH) grants to conduct coronavirus research in the Wuhan lab as well as funded gain of research studies manipulating bat genome sequences.  Daszak was the lone solitary representative from the United States that China allowed to participate in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) extremely limited investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

Another letter from five virologists in Nature Medicine on March 17, 2020, added to the narrative saying, "we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible."

There is no doubt in my mind the combination of prominent scientists coming out strongly against the lab leak theory, along with officials from the State Department shutting down additional inquiries, ended up being two of the most consequential events in the 2020 election cycle.

Their early and near-total dismissal of the lab leak theory played a prominent role in the defeat of President Trump in the 2020 presidential race.

Why would ty do this – to avoid any accountability that they may have had regarding Wuhan lab research or leaks? Additionally, were there concerns they did not want to prove President Trump’s statement to be true that the origin of COVID-19 was a Wuhan lab leak?  Had they given credence to this charge, the whole tenor, tone and focus of the 2020 election would have turned on a dime.

If COVID-19 had come about due to a Chinese lab leak, the top question on voters’ minds in the 2020 election would have become who was going to stand up to China.  Which candidate would hold the Chinese accountable for unleashing the COVID-19 plague on the world?

Americans would have demanded a tougher line against the Chinese communist regime and would have been looking for a Commander in Chief to lead the charge.  There is no doubt in my mind this would have benefitted President Trump much more than Joe Biden.

However, instead of validating President Trump’s concerns, the scientists’ early dismissal created a narrative that President Trump was out of touch and spreading right-wing conspiracy theories.  It was narrative that the elite media, who hated President Trump with a burning passion, was only too happy to help spread.

As more facts come to light, we are now learning it does appear the science was compromised, and there may have been a ‘Deep State’ science department which put an outcome – dismissal of the lab leak theory – over science.

We now know other scientists immediately expressed concerns that COVID-19 resulted from a lab leak.  Their concerns went to the top U.S. government officials responsible for containing the virus.  However, these concerns were acknowledged, and then dismissed.

Was this line of inquiry shut down because it would have validated President Trump’s claims?  Were scientists covering up their own negligence regarding the U.S. relationship with and funding of the Wuhan lab? Is it a mixture of both? Neither?

We don’t know all the answers, but the more we learn about the early days of the pandemic, the more questions are raised.  Some of the scientists who initially said it was a lab leak think the origins of COVID-19 need to be revisited and further investigation is warranted.  I agree.

With more than 600,000 Americans and over 3.7 million people around the globe already dead due to COVID-19, we deserve answers. 

Republican Lindsey Graham represents South Carolina in the United States Senate.