Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wants you to believe him when he says there is “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus outbreak originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, but Pompeo did not produce the evidence he talked about. He just escalated rhetoric about it.
During an interview Sunday with ABC This Week, Pompeo said, “There is enormous evidence that that’s where this began.” Later he added, “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”
Pompeo is parroting Donald Trump’s narrative and shifting the blame to China as criticism grows for the botched U.S. coronavirus response and the dismal state of the U.S. economy as it teeters towards a depression.
Trump promised a “conclusive” report on the Chinese origins of the coronavirus outbreak during a Sunday “virtual town hall” with Fox News.
“We’re going to be giving a very strong report as to exactly what we think happened. And I think it will be very conclusive,” Trump said in response to a question about the lab. “My opinion is they made a mistake. They tried to cover it. They tried to put it out, just like a fire.”
U.S. intelligence made a formal statement on April 30 ruling out theories that the virus was man-made or genetically modified. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said it continues to “rigorously examine” whether the outbreak “began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the statement said.
Trump made a similar unsupported claim on Thursday, contradicted his own intelligence community’s on-the-record statement. Trump said he has seen evidence that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China.
On the same day, Pompeo told a radio interviewer: “We don’t know if it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. We don’t know if it emanated from the wet market or yet some other place. We don’t know those answers,” the Guardian reported.
Trump is trying desperately to frame China as the villain, as the state of economy and his handling of the crisis boost support for the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, Bloomberg reported.
The Chinese foreign ministry says China’s response has been open and transparent, citing Trump’s tweets praising Chinese President Xi Jinping’s handling of the outbreak as evidence of U.S. satisfaction with its response.
It has avoided criticizing Trump by name, but accused some U.S. officials of trying “to shift their own responsibility for their poor handling of the epidemic to others.”
In the town hall Sunday, Trump passed up an opportunity to directly criticize Xi, calling him a “strong” leader who he struck a trade deal with just as the outbreak was spreading.
“I’m not going to say anything,” Trump said. “I had a very good relationship with him.”
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 70: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin goes solo to discuss the COVID-19 crisis. He talks about the failed leadership of Trump, Andrew Cuomo, CDC Director Robert Redfield, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and New York Mayor de Blasio.
If coronavirus did escape from a lab in China, it would not be a first. China has a history with dangerous viruses escaping from a lab. The SARS virus escaped from a high-containment Beijing research lab at least three times, causing an outbreak in China, the New Scientist and other media reported in 2004. A grad student who worked for two weeks at the Institute of Virology of the Chinese Center for Disease Control in Beijing developed SARS and a postdoctoral student in the same lab became ill weeks later.
This raised concerns about other viruses handled in a similar way.
“These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab,” Pompeo said.