Top Pentagon official throws cold water on right wingers’ ‘Wuhan lab’ bioweapon conspiracy theory

Top Pentagon official throws cold water on right wingers’ ‘Wuhan lab’ bioweapon conspiracy theory
An 18th Medical Group Airman places a COVID-19 test sample into a sealed container at Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 20. Under the most current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the 18 MDG has increased its testing for the disease. Those who are tested become Persons Under Investigation (PUI), are contacted by Public Health, placed into isolation and instructed on how to avoid spread of their illness to family members in the home. Public Health interviews the PUI and develops a list of “close contacts” who are then called and given instructions to quarantine for 14 days. A close contact is someone who lived with or cared for a PUI, had direct physical contact with a PUI, or shared eating utensils or had prolonged close conversation with a PUI. On average, lab results take 2-5 days to return. If results are negative, isolated and quarantined individuals will be notified and released. If results come back positive, quarantine for the close contact will continue for 14 days and isolation for the PUI will continue until the PUI is medically cleared. Someone who has had contact with someone deemed a close contact does not need to be placed in quarantine but should continue to practice social distancing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rhett Isbell)

Some conspiracy theorists on the far right have been claiming that COVID-19 originated in a laboratory in Mainland China and that it was unleashed as a form of biological warfare. And others have claimed that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese lab and escaped because of carelessness — not as some type of bio attack. But according to Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the “weight of evidence” indicates that the deadly coronavirus has “natural” origins.


On April 14, Milley told reporters at the Pentagon, “There’s a lot of rumor and speculation in a wide variety of media, blog sites, etc. It should be no surprise to you that we’ve taken a keen interest in that, and we’ve had a lot of intelligence look at that. And I would just say at this point, it’s inconclusive — although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural. But we don’t know for certain.”

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a far-right Republican and strident supporter of President Donald Trump, has, at times, floated the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was unleashed as a bioweapon by the government in Mainland China. But The Guardian’s Julian Borger has noted that Cotton has also “argued (that) natural transmission from animals to humans — or a lab accident — were more likely scenarios.”

Borger observes, “Most scientists say that this coronavirus probably originated in bats but found its way to humans through an intermediary animal. There is no conclusive evidence that this happened at Wuhan’s notorious ‘wet’ markets, where wild animals were sold for meat. Analysis of the first 41 COVID-19 patients in medical journal The Lancet found that 27 of them had direct exposure to the Wuhan market, but the same analysis found that the first known case did not.”

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