Former CDC Director Received Death Threats Over COVID-19 "Lab Leak" Theory From Other Scientists

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Being a public figure will net you some nasty attention no matter who you are or what you do and from time to time, you’re going to get some death threats. These usually come from people on the internet who feel secure saying these things behind a wall of anonymity and a keyboard miles away from the intended target.


Former CDC Director Robert Redfield also received his share of death threats after he expressed his belief that the COVID-19 virus did, in fact, leak from a lab in China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. Only his weren’t just from anonymous trolls, it was from the scientific community, including people he knew.

In a reveal to Vanity Fair, Redfield said that after a CNN interview where he expressed this belief, his inbox was flooded with angry responses including death threats from people he even once considered friends:

By spring of 2021, the debate over COVID-19’s origins had become so noxious that death threats were flying in both directions.

In a CNN interview on March 26, Dr. Redfield, the former CDC director under Trump, made a candid admission: “I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, you know, escaped.” Redfield added that he believed the release was an accident, not an intentional act. In his view, nothing that happened since his first calls with Dr. Gao changed a simple fact: The WIV needed to be ruled out as a source, and it hadn’t been.

After the interview aired, death threats flooded his inbox. The vitriol came not just from strangers who thought he was being racially insensitive but also from prominent scientists, some of whom used to be his friends. One said he should just “wither and die.”


Last month, I wrote an article about how conspiracy theorists aren’t created in a vacuum, and the seedbed for these theories rises in the absence of information that should be provided by trusted institutions that have, in some way, lost the trust of the public. A lot of our scientific institutions have indeed lost the trust of the general public due to the clear fact that many scientists have allowed the injection of politics into their profession.

Now we’re hearing that the political injection runs so deep that noted scientists who run in the same circle as the former head of the Center for Disease Control are issuing threats to those who disagree with a narrative set forth by a political party. These are no longer men of science, they’re mouthpieces for a political group, and whether through intimidation or just plain malice, they want people who disagree with them to shut up and stay quiet so their narrative can thrive.

With the people seeing that the scientific community has lost its scientific mind to the point of death threats how can it trust it? What advice can it give that won’t be looked at with some level of skepticism. Instead of hearing “science,” people will interpret a scientist’s advice as somehow being beneficial to a political group or politician.


This isn’t just a good look for the scientific community, it’s a bad turn for society overall as it struggles to find a reason to trust the people whose job it’s supposed to be to navigate us through hardship and mystery with know-how and expertise.

Moreover, it shows the political infection of this country has grown wildly out of control, so much so that scientists have ceased being scientists and morphed into bureaucrats.


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