A Real-Life Bond Villain? Coronavirus Researcher Peter Daszak Is the Golden Thread Weaving Through Lab Leak Theory Dismissals

AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

QUICK AND DIRTY:

  • Dr. Peter Daszak funneled tens of millions of dollars in grants from the US government – including the Department of Defense – to the Wuhan Institute of Virology through his non-profit, EcoHealth Alliance.
  • Daszak performed gain-of-function research on SARS coronaviruses at WIV with Dr. Shi Zhengli, including on two trains nearly identical to COVID-19.
  • Daszak spearheaded the drafting and submission of a 2/19/20 letter in the Lancet from 27 scientists declaring that COVID-19 arose naturally, without declaring his conflict.
  • Many of the signatories of that letter had received emails from Daszak soliciting their signature and reminding them of all the research funding they’d received from EcoHealth Alliance.
  • Facebook’s COVID-19 fact-checker, Science Feedback, used Daszak as one of their “experts” to shut down lab leak theory discussion.
  • Daszak emailed Dr. Fauci in the early days of the pandemic, thanking him for shutting down the lab leak theory.
  • Daszak influenced numerous other letters and statements in scientific journals that declared a lab leak was impossible.
  • Daszak was selected to be a member of the WHO study team that declared it “highly unlikely” that the pandemic originated in a lab – without doing an actual investigation or seeing original documentation.
  • Daszak was recently tapped to head an investigation into COVID-19’s origin by Lancet.

Over the past several weeks as we have been writing about the unfolding lab-leak-theory story at RedState, one person always seemed to be acting as the puppetmaster in defending the Wuhan Institute of Virology against claims that the virus might have been accidentally released from a lab: Dr. Peter Daszak.

At first, Daszak seemed a tangential connection to the story, but as time has gone on it has become clearer that Daszak is the story.

Peter Daszak is a British citizen and earned his Bachelor’s in Zoology from Bangor University in Bangor, Wales in 1987 and then his Ph.D. in Parasitic and Infectious Diseases from the University of East London in 1994. Daszak’s Wikipedia page describes how he later came to the United States and was linked to several organizations here:

In the late 1990s Daszak moved to the United States and was affiliated with the Institute of Ecology at the University of Georgia and the National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, Georgia. Later he became executive director at a collaborative think-tank in New York City, the Consortium for Conservation Medicine. He has adjunct positions at two universities the U.K. and three universities in the U.S., including the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

After joining The Wildlife Trust in the early 2000s, Daszak began studies of emerging viral threats through the lens of “conservation medicine,” which studies the balance between the health of nature and animals and their direct relationship to human health. Daszak soon found himself as one of the foremost voices in the discussion on potential viral outbreaks and the potential of future pandemics. When The Wildlife Trust rebranded itself as EcoHealth Alliance, Daszak rose to the position of President and began soliciting grants to begin studying varying viral threats to humans.

Daszak’s work initially started as an admirable pursuit:  He was seeking to identify viral threats so global scientists could develop treatments and vaccines for those viral pathogens in the event there was the outbreak of a global pandemic. For a long time, Daszak’s focus was on the investigation of naturally occurring viruses, providing the genomic sequencing for those viruses, and cataloging those viral maps in a public online repository. Again, extremely admirable.

But, like any villain, the story never starts with them as the villain. In many ways, villains always see themselves as “saving” the world, through their very distorted and warped lens. Peter Daszak is no different.

Our coverage here over the last several weeks began with Senator Paul’s questioning of grants awarded by NIH to EcoHealth Alliance and how those funds were later used to allegedly pay for gain-of-function (GoF) studies at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).  Dr. Anthony Fauci was adamant about several things, all of which turned out to be outright intentional misinformation (see: lies). We found that not only were NIH/NIAID-funded studies used to conduct GoF research at the WIV, but so were studies funded by the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security through USAID and PREDICT.  PREDICT, as we have previously discussed, is the cooperative group used to study and “predict” future viral threats, between USAID and EcoHealth Alliance.

While someone in Daszak’s position could have used the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 as an opportunity to demand additional funding and claim the proverbial “I told you so” rights to the outbreak of a new virus, instead Daszak went on the defensive. As revealed previously, while the virus was still in its infancy, Daszak was circling the wagons to stage a cover-up. Daszak inserted himself anywhere he could defend the research being conducted at the WIV and emphatically insist that there was no way that the virus came from a lab, even though he had not personally conducted any investigations into the matter.  In fact, the entirety of Daszak’s belief on the matter relied solely on the word of Wuhan lab scientist and another central figure to the lab-leak theory, Dr. Shi Zhengli. Daszak and Shi had conducted US-funded GoF research on SARS viruses at the WIV, some of which could have been used as the backbone in the potential creation of SARS-CoV-2. An independent study conducted in Africa found that two of the viral strains that Daszak and Shi were studying closely related to SARS-CoV-2. In fact, a phylogenic analysis in the study places SARS-CoV-2 between RaTG13 and WIV16, two of the very viruses being studied by the Wuhan lab.

Daszak made sure to have the WHO name him to the team investigating the origins of COVID-19, but again, never visited the lab or conducted any research in China as part of that investigation. Daszak orchestrated the drafting and publishing of a February 19, 2020 statement in the Lancet signed by 27 scientists that, in the words of Vanity Fair reporter Katherine Eban, “roundly rejected the lab-leak hypothesis, effectively casting it as a xenophobic cousin to climate change denialism and anti-vaxxism.” The statement was taken as infallible gospel, at least publicly, by the world’s scientific community and stopped all “scientific” debate over the pandemic’s origins.

Yet, the general public wasn’t aware of Daszak’s – and many other signatories’ – conflict of interest. In fact, the Lancet statement was presented in a way that inferred that its genesis was organic and ended with this line: “We declare no competing interests.”

Remember, this statement was published in mid-February 2020, nearly a month before lockdowns started in the United States. How in the world could Daszak have been so completely sure of the origins of COVID-19 before any investigation was conducted and why would Daszak place himself at the front of the defensive lines against a theory which remains viable and at this point, likely?

Daszak’s influence was seen in other papers and letters rejecting the theory, as evidenced by emails that were released from Ohio State, the University of Maryland, and the University of North Carolina.

And, of course, as I reported more than a week ago, Daszak was one of the “experts” that Facebook’s “independent” fact-checker, Science Feedback, relied upon to shut down all discussion of a potential lab leak origin of the coronavirus pandemic – without disclosing his conflict of interest.

It seems that at every turn Daszak was the hub of the action – and that continues to this day, even as his complete conflict of interest and lack of impartiality is well-known. The Lancet just this week named him as the head of a commission to examine the origins of COVID-19. Daszak’s name even showed up in the Fauci email release, showing Daszak heaping cultic-like praise on Fauci for denouncing the lab-leak theory.

When the Trump administration pulled the grant funding to EcoHealth Alliance in April of 2020, largely because of the very reasons mentioned above, much of the mainstream media and Branch Covidian cultists claimed that Trump’s action was rash and unnecessary, and in some ways, bordered on anti-Chinese xenophobia. Again, came a letter, this time from 77 Nobel Laureates, demanding that the funding be reinstated. With the evidence of Daszak’s central role in orchestrating several previous defenses of EcoHealth Alliance’s potentially nefarious interests, how could we be led to believe any other theory than Daszak orchestrated that letter as well?

But if Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance had nothing to do with the outbreak of COVID-19, why would they gamble their credibility and ultimately the survival of the organization or the words of a few Chinese Government loyal scientists?  EcoHealth Alliance issued denials that they were conducting GoF research, despite Daszak-led and EcoHealth Alliance funded published studies that show GoF research being conducted. The very man that should be at the forefront of the debate about preventing future COVID-19-like pandemics is shrinking away into the shadows and avoiding answering questions about his, and his organization’s, involvement in a potential cover-up on behalf of the Chinese government.

Daszak appears less and less like the hero of this story and more like James Bond- Die Another Day’s Elliot Carver claiming, “The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.”  Certainly, had Daszak succeeded in developing universal vaccines for influenza, SARS, Ebola, and the like, history would record his contributions as a genius. Instead, however, we are here debating the insanity of Daszak’s actions in conducting what amounts to bioweapons research in a secret overseas governmental lab; the very research that may be responsible for the deaths of over 3 million people worldwide. Certainly, the potential exists that Daszak will be vindicated through a thorough and complete investigation, but again, why would he hide from it?

Daszak’s reputation was relatively unknown before 2020, but may soon become a household name as the investigation into the origins of COVID-19 continues.  Daszak’s lack of cooperation with Congressional investigators raises a lot of questions. While a lot remains to be determined, Peter Daszak continues to stonewall. Read into that what you will.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was edited post-publication for clarity.)