It has now been revealed that scientific experts in 2020 viewed the theory of COVID-19 being leaked from a lab in Wuhan as “very likely,” but instead chose to sign a paper in March of that year saying the opposite.
The March paper, titled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2” was signed by a group of scientists in 2020 and played an influential role in shaping public consensus that the pandemic had originated in a Chinese wet market — not a lab.
House Republicans on the subcommittee investigating the origins of COVID-19 accidentally released a set of new documents on Wednesday containing screenshots of emails and Slack messages which show that the scientists who signed onto the “Proximal Origin” paper believed the opposite of what they told the public.
The inadvertently released documents included emails and Slack messages that were cropped and showed the scientists’ real-time thinking in 2020.
The recently exposed documents included cropped emails and Slack messages, exposing the motive of the “Proximal Origin” authors.
The subcommittee’s report, which contained the cropped set of emails and messages, was created using “Acrobat PDFMaker 23 for Word,” according to The Intercept, which noted that the report was initially drafted as a Word document.
Despite having cropped the information, Word keeps the original image when an image is cropped.
Microsoft points out that “Cropped parts of the picture are not removed from the file, and can potentially be seen by others.” The company adds, “If there is sensitive information in the area you’re cropping out make sure you delete the cropped areas.”
When the scientists’ report was inputted into Word and later converted into a PDF, the uncropped images were carried over into the PDF.
Due to the retainment of the uncropped images, The Intercept was able to restore the emails and Slack messages to their original format.
Let’s go on an Easter egg hunt inside the pdf https://t.co/ntVn2UpKPd
— Francisco de Asis (@franciscodeasis) July 11, 2023
The House Republicans’ hearing on Tuesday into the “Proximal Origin” paper began with a series of calls in February 2020 made by Dr. Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins, then-head of the National Institutes of Health.
On the same day Fauci and Collins wrapped up their first call, the authors of the origin paper had completed their first draft, which ended up sharing a consensus opposite of what they believed, according to The Intercept.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the authors said they had “changed their minds” because of new data.
However, as seen in the emails and Slack messages, the authors consistently shared their belief that COVID-19 escaped from a Chinese lab, even after the release of new data.
Among the authors who testified at the hearing was Kristian Andersen, who, in a February 2020 Slack message between fellow author Andrew Rambaut, hypothesized that the virus could’ve leaked from lab instead of having emerged naturally from a wet market.
“I believe RaTG13 is from Yuanan, which is about as far away from Wuhan as you can be and still be in China,” Andersen wrote on Slack, referring to a virus in 2013 that produced Covid-like symptoms in children.
“What are the chances of finding a viruses that are 96% identical given that distance? Seems strange given how many SARS-like viruses we have in bats,” Andersen added.
Rambaut responded to Andersen, claiming that while the entire situation was “fishy,” they should avoid speculation — effectively ending the conversation.
“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,” Rambaut wrote. “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.”
Despite Rambaut saying the truth would never come to light if Covid had escaped from a lab, he did say, however, that the authors should set such an argument aside.
“I think it would be good idea to lay out these arguments for limited dissemination. And quite frankly so we can learn from it even if it wasn’t an escape,” he added.
After having completed their first draft, Andersen replied to two colleagues who wanted to eliminate the lab leak theory from the paper.
“The main issue is that accidental escape is in fact highly likely-it’s not some fringe theory,” Andersen said.
Although the authors did share the belief that COVID-19 could have likely emerged from a lab, the paper they released argued the opposite and would eventually be used to label the possibility of a lab leak as merely a “conspiracy theory” (and even racist.)
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