Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo hosted Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) on yesterday’s edition of Sunday Morning Futures, during which the two continued to spread a debunked conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 virus might have originated in an infectious disease research laboratory in Wuhan, China, and that the government of that country is covering it up.
Bartiromo brought up the subject by playing a video clip of Cotton’s past discussion of the idea on Fox, and then she asked him to elaborate: “Can you tell us more about this super lab, this level 4 biochemical lab that you mentioned in Wuhan? What do they do there?”
“The Lancet published a study of the first 40 cases of coronavirus and 14 of them had no contact with that market, so the virus went into that market which acted as an accelerant before it came out of that market,” Cotton said. “As for what’s happened in that biosafety level 4 laboratory, the super lab in Wuhan, we still don’t know because the Chinese Communist Party refuses to come clean.”
Cotton cited a study by the medical journal The Lancet which suggested that the virus did not actually originate at the seafood market in Wuhan, as has been speculated, but came from another origin point. Cotton and other right-wing media figures, such as Fox host Tucker Carlson and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, have exploited this study to suggest that the disease was man-made.
The Lancet itself published a statement over a month ago denouncing the misuse of its study in this manner: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” The statement explained that studies of the virus genome by scientists in multiple studies confirm the view that it originated naturally in wildlife, and further said that “conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus.”
In short, the Lancet study suggests that the virus began crossing over to humans at some point before it spread in the Wuhan market, but this argument was not meant in any way to suggest it was man-made — and the journal itself stands by the virus being a natural phenomenon. But that’s not going to stop right-wing media from spreading misinformation about it, and even claiming to cite The Lancet as an authority in favor of this conspiracy theory.