National security experts slam media, scientists for prematurely shutting down COVID-19 origins discussion


EXCLUSIVE: A group of national security experts signed a letter Wednesday accusing major news outlets and scientific journals including The New York Times and The Lancet of censoring dissenting voices surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic’s origins and calling on those publications to investigate their journalistic failures.

A letter to the “editors, authors, and contributors” of The Lancet, Nature Medicine, The New York Times and Time magazine accused the publications of stifling debate on the origins of the virus. It was signed by 43 national security experts, including Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and former National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, among others.

The letter cited a May 2021 report by Fox News Digital about a Times reporter who claimed that the “lab leak theory,” or the theory that the virus came from a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, had “racist roots.”

“Leading scientific journals censored dissenting voices; many science writers at major news outlets promoted narratives or asserted conclusions unsubstantiated by evidence; reporters failed to make even cursory attempts at surfacing potential conflicts of interest of their sources,” the letter read. “This served to hamper national and international policy discussions about how to mitigate against future pandemics of any origin — natural, accidental, or deliberate.”


The letter was coordinated by the Vandenberg Coalition, which it described as a “non-partisan organization committed to advancing U.S. national security and emphasizing policy over politics.”

The 43 signees are calling on the four named publications to “investigate these failures, hold responsible parties accountable, and rededicate themselves to the founding ideals of their crafts, which should include impartiality and adherence to evidence-based inquiry.”

“We also call on major news organizations worldwide to carry out deeper investigations into the pandemic’s origins, particularly by examining all credible origins hypotheses, and call on scientific journals to examine how the debate about pandemic origins can be more open and balanced,” the letter read.

“The dispassionate search for truth is a cornerstone of responsible science and journalism,” it continued. “At a time when social media apps are fueling uncivil, hyper-partisan, and unbalanced public discourse, it is even more critical that reporters and editors strive for balance, assert their independence, and resist partisanship and peer pressure. This standard should apply to media organizations of all backgrounds and persuasions. Living up to these standards could help prevent similar—or worse—pandemics in the future.”


Wednesday’s letter provided several examples to bolster its argument, including when The Lancet published a controversial article at the start of the pandemic in February 2020, in which 27 experts declared, “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

The February 2020 letter faced scrutiny after one of its authors, Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance and a then-member of The Lancet’s commission tasked with researching the origins of the pandemic, failed to disclose EcoHealth’s relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and he was later recused from working on The Lancet’s commission.

Andrew Huff, the former vice president of EcoHealth Alliance who authored “The Truth About Wuhan: How I Uncovered the Biggest Lie in History,” has since called on Republicans to “launch a full investigation” into COVID-19’s origins and the role his former organization had. 

Huff told Fox News Digital last month that “the U.S. government funded gain-of-function work, it was mismanaged between EcoHealth Alliance and NIH and that gain-of-function work was used to develop the SARS-COV2.”

Huff said he has been in touch with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, suggesting he’d be willing to testify in the new Republican-controlled House. 

House Republicans passed a rules package Monday that included the creation of a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic to investigate the virus’ origins.

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