'S--tshow': Scientists Downplayed Lab Leak Theory re: COVID Origins for Fear of China's Reaction if Blamed

On Tuesday, two co-authors of the March 2020 Natural Medicine article “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV2,” Dr. Kristian Anderson and Dr. Robert Garry, testified before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. As RedState reported, under close questioning, Anderson and Garry steadfastly maintained their insistence that the virus evolved naturally rather than having escaped from a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, despite the ample evidence to the contrary.


During their testimony, the doctors were confronted with internal Slack communications that indicated they elected to downplay the lab leak theory for fear of China’s reaction.

Scientists who wrote a paper dismissing the so-called “lab leak theory” of the origin of COVID-19 admitted they feared blaming China for accidentally releasing the virus, according to internal communications obtained by a House subcommittee.

A co-author of the March 2020 Nature Medicine article “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2” and other scientists who collaborated on the paper privately worried about the “s–tshow that would happen” if “China in particular” were deemed responsible for COVID escaping one of their research labs, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic majority revealed in an interim report Tuesday.

“​​Given the s–tshow that would happen if anyone serious accused the Chinese of even accidental release, my feeling is we should say that given there is no evidence of a specifically engineered virus, we cannot possibly distinguish between natural evolution and escape so we are content with ascribing it to natural process,” Dr. Andrew Rambaut, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Edinburgh, wrote in a Feb. 2, 2020, Slack message to co-authors Dr. Kristian Andersen, Dr. Edward Holmes and Dr. Robert Garry.


Screenshot from House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Report. (Credit: House Oversight Committee)

In conjunction with the hearing (the full video of which can be viewed below), the committee released a 55-page report of its findings, titled: “The Proximal Origin of a Cover-Up: Did the ‘Bethesda Boys’ Downplay a Lab Leak?”

The “Bethesda Boys” is a reference to former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and former National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins.

The committee also provided a press release and summary of the report’s findings:

WASHINGTON — Today, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) issued an interim staff report detailing the Select Subcommittee’s comprehensive investigation into the suppression of the lab-leak hypothesis by America’s leading public health officials through the drafting, publication, and critical reception of the infamous “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2” (“Proximal Origin”) publication. The report titled “The Proximal Origin of a Cover-Up: Did the ‘Bethesda Boys’ Downplay a Lab Leak?” reveals extensive influence by the NIH and the flawed analysis combined with an alarming lack of evidence that led the paper’s co-authors to argue in support of a zoonotic origin.

“America’s leading health officials vilified and suppressed the lab leak theory in pursuit of a preferred, coordinated narrative that was not based in truth or science. The Select Subcommittee’s report proves that the conclusions championed by the co-authors of Proximal Origin are not only inaccurate, but were crafted to appease a stated political motive,” said Chairman Wenstrup. “Stifling scientific discourse and labeling those who believe in the possibility of a lab-leak as ‘conspiracy theorists’ caused irrefutable harm to public trust in our health officials. Americans deserve to know why honesty, transparency, and facts were abandoned. Our report is devoted to achieving that goal.”

Included in the report are previously unrevealed Slack messages and emails between the co-authors, unabridged transcripts of interviews with every U.S.-based contributor to the paper, and a detailed analysis of the coordinated effort to suppress the lab-leak theory.

Key findings from the report:

  • Dr. Fauci, Dr. Collins, and the NIH exerted undue influence over the drafting and publication of “Proximal Origin.” Specifically, Dr. Fauci suggested the drafting of a paper regarding the lab leak theory to Dr. Andersen twice, while Dr. Collins pushed for publication and approved of the substance of “Proximal Origin.” The co-authors were so comfortable with the NIH’s involvement that they coined the name “Bethesda Boys” to describe the nation’s leading health officials.
  • “Proximal Origin” co-authors skewed available evidence when executing Dr. Fauci’s vision of a single narrative. The facts and science relied upon to draw conclusions in “Proximal Origin” have never been proven or verified. Many of the arguments championed by the publication suffer from inaccurate assumptions and obvious inconsistencies.
  • Dr. Anderson made it clear the co-authors allowed politics to influence the science behind “Proximal Origin”. In private slack messages, Dr. Anderson said, “Although I hate when politics is injected into science – but it’s impossible not to, especially given the circumstances.” The co-authors and Dr. Collins also attempted to downplay the lab leak theory seemingly motivated by an interest to defend China and play diplomat.
  • Nature initially rejected “Proximal Origin” because it didn’t sufficiently downplay the lab leak theory. The co-authors amended their paper to include stronger language that would unequivocally rule out the lab-leak hypothesis to ensure approval by Nature Medicine. Read a full history of the drafts leading up to the final “Proximal Origin” publication here.
  • Investigating any egregious COVID-19 cover-up is essential to preserving future scientific integrity. “Proximal Origin” is the 5th most impactful scientific paper in history. To date, it has been accessed over 5.8 million times and cited over 2,800 times. Given its colossal reach and its dubious conclusions, it is necessary to analyze the process and publication of this paper to prevent the suppression of scientific discourse in future pandemics.
  • The Select Subcommittee’s investigation is not over. There are still outstanding requests for transcribed interviews and documents from Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins. The Select Subcommittee will follow through on these requests.

RedState, of course, has been covering the story of COVID’s origins extensively and will continue to do so.



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