by Dr. Joseph Mercola, Mercola:
- U.S. House Republicans investigating the origin of COVID-19 inadvertently released a trove of new documents that shed light on deliberations among the scientists in the earliest days of the pandemic
- July 11, 2023, the subcommittee on the origin of COVID-19 held a hearing on the “Proximal Origin” paper, in which they questioned Dr. Robert Garry of Tulane University and Dr. Kristian Andersen of Scripps, two of the paper’s authors
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- February 1, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci convened a conference call with nearly a dozen scientists. Their scientific consensus was that SARS-CoV-2 appeared to be genetically engineered and that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab escape
- Later that day, several of the authors drafted a paper that drew the opposite conclusion. “The Proximal Origin of Sars-Cov-2,” a letter to the editor, was published in Nature Medicine, March 17, 2020. It ended up being widely cited by media as evidence of a scientific consensus that the virus emerged naturally and jumped species
According to a July 12, 2023, article by Ryan Grim published by The Intercept,1 U.S. House Republicans investigating the origin of COVID-19 “appear to have inadvertently released a trove of new documents … that shed light on deliberations among the scientists who drafted a key paper in February and March of 2020.”
The paper in question is “The Proximal Origin of Sars-Cov-2,”2 a letter to the editor of Nature Medicine published March 17, 2020. This letter ended up being widely cited by the media as evidence of a scientific consensus that the virus emerged naturally and jumped species.
The House Subcommittee on the origin of COVID-19 devoted an entire report to this paper, showing how the authors presented a false conclusion to the public while privately believing the virus had escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
The report was published July 11, 2023, the same day the subcommittee also held a hearing on the “Proximal Origin” paper, in which they questioned Robert Garry, Ph.D., of Tulane University and Kristian Andersen, Ph.D., of Scripps, two of the scientists involved in its creation. The Intercept explains how more information than intended ended up out in the open:3
“According to the metadata in the PDF of the report, it was created using ‘Acrobat PDFMaker 23 for Word,’ indicating that the report was originally drafted as a Word document. Word, however, retains the original image when an image is cropped, as do many other apps …
The Intercept was able to extract the original, complete images from the PDF using freely available tools, following the work of a Twitter sleuth. All the files can be found here.”4
The original subcommittee report has now been taken down.
February 1, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci, then-director of the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Dr. Francis Collins, then-director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a conference call with 11 scientists to discuss COVID-19.
On that conference call, Drs. Fauci and Collins were warned that COVID-19 may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) — and that the virus appeared to be the result of genetic engineering. Minutes from the call reveal a lab escape was in fact the consensus among the gathered experts on that day.
Yet later that very day, a first draft of “The Proximal Origin” paper had been written, and three days later, on February 4, Fauci was sent a copy for editing and approval. The authors have maintained that new information changed their minds, but what, exactly, could they have learned in that short time? As it turns out, nothing.
According to The Intercept, “Slack messages and emails show that their initial inclination toward a lab escape remained long past that time.” So, as initially suspected, the “Proximal Origin” paper appears to have been nothing more than an attempt to control the narrative.
Zoonotic Origin Pushers Suspected Lab Leak
“In a Slack exchange February 2, 2020, between Andersen and Andrew Rambaut of the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Evolutionary Biology in the School of Biological Sciences, it becomes clear how seriously the authors took the hypothesis that COVID may have leaked from a lab … before they ultimately became dedicated to publicly dismissing it,” Grim writes.5
In that Slack exchange, Andersen wrote:
“I believe RaTG13 is from Yuanan, which is about as far away from Wuhan as you can be and still be in China. What are the chances of finding viruses that are 96% identical given that distance? Seems strange given how many SARS-like viruses we have in bats.”
RaTG13 refers to a virus found in a Chinese mine in 2013 after several miners had fallen ill with COVID-like symptoms. This virus was stored and researched at the WIV. Rambaut replied to Andersen’s comment:6
“I personally think we should get away from all the strange coincidence stuff. I agree it smells really fishy but without a smoking gun it will not do us any good.
The truth is never going to come out (if [lab] escape is the truth). Would need irrefutable evidence. My position is that the natural evolution is entirely plausible and we will have to leave it at that. Lab passaging might also generate this mutation but we have no evidence that that happened.”
Rambaut also noted:7
“Given the shitshow 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 processes.”
While Andersen agreed with Rambaut’s comment, saying “Yup. I totally agree that that’s a very reasonable conclusion,” he still, clearly, did not believe that COVID was caused by zoonotic transfer. Earlier in that same Slack thread, Andersen stressed that:8
“The main issue is that accidental escape is in fact highly likely — it’s not some fringe theory. I absolutely agree that we can’t prove one way or the other, but we never will be able to — however, that doesn’t mean that by default the data is currently much more suggestive of a natural origin as opposed to e.g. passage. It is not — the furin cleavage site is very hard to explain.”
The choice of words is ironic, considering the lab leak theory was dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory in large part thanks to Andersen’s “Proximal Origin” paper, which boldly proclaimed that “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus” and that “we do not believe any type of laboratory scenario is plausible.”