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60 Minutes Attempts to Walk Back Doubts Over Covid Lab Leak Theory

AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

The long-established, once viewed as credible journalism CBS News program, 60 Minutes, attempted to clear the air about the origins of COVID-19 after a year of declaring the lab-leak theory "debunked."

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After FBI Director Christopher Wray agreed with the bombshell report by the Washington Street Journal, revealing that the United States Department of Energy concluded that COVID "most likely arose from a laboratory leak," 60 Minutes is walking back their previous comments about the matter. 

In May 2020, CBS News's Scott Pelley cast significant doubt over the Trump Administration's assertions that the virus was leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China saying, "both the White House and the Chinese Communist Party have been less than honest."

Alternatively, Pelley pushed the idea that the virus emerged from a wet market with Peter Daszak, president of the group EcoHealth Alliance, "confirming" this theory. 

"There is zero evidence that his virus came out of a lab in China," Daszak said.

"Does the Wuhan Institute of Virology, to your knowledge, have this virus in its inventory?" Pelley asked. 

"No," Daszak firmly responded. "The closest known relative is one that's different enough that it is not SARS-CoV 2, so there's just no evidence that anybody had it in the lab anywhere in the world before the outbreak." 

At the time, EcoHealth Alliance was receiving government funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and has worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Daszak, an anti-believer of the lab leak theory, praised the company's work as being "critical." 

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Pelley criticized the Trump Administration for suspending EcoHealth's funding, claiming it was because of a "political disinformation campaign targeting China's Wuhan Institute." 

"As the U.S. led the world in illness and death, the [Trump] White House moved the focus to the Chinese government," Pelley told viewers then. "Last Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to resurrect a debunked theory that the virus was man-made in China… However, the administration has offered no evidence of an accident or genetic engineering."

In March 2021, Daszak continued to put down the lab leak theory saying it is "extremely unlikely," even after Pelley's colleague Lesley Stahl posed calling the lab leak a "leading theory."

However, Jamie Metzl, a former Clinton administration official and an adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO), put Daszak's claims to bed, saying that the virus did come from the Wuhan lab, criticizing him for defending China. 

Well, what else can we do?" Daszak pushed back after Stahl didn't question the theory. "There's a limit to what you can do, and we went right up to that limit. We asked them tough questions. They weren't vetted in advance, and the answers they gave we found to be believable, correct, and convincing."

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"But weren't the Chinese engaged in a cover-up?" Stahl asked. "They destroyed evidence; they punished scientists trying to give evidence on this question of the origin."

"Well, that wasn't a task to find out if China covered up the origin issue. We didn't see any evidence of any false reporting or cover-up in the work that we did in China. There were Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff in the room throughout our stay, absolutely. They were there to make sure everything went smoothly from the China side," Daszak said.

"Or to make sure they weren't telling you the whole truth and nothing but the truth," Stahl responded. 

"You sit in a room with people who are scientists, and you know what a scientific statement is, and you know what a political statement is. We had no problem distinguishing between the two," Daszak said.

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