Roughly one year ago, Zero Hedge was "permanently" banned from Twitter for daring to suggest that the novel coronavirus outbreak rocking the globe might have originated with a lab called the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a Level 4 Biosafety facility where scientists were - as fate would have it - researching coronaviruses, including viruses gleaned from bats.
When Chinese authorities identified a massive "wet market" in the city as ground zero for infections, suggesting the virus originated with some of market's wares, which including live civets and bats, considered delicacies by many Chinese, it was a scientist who first pointed out the lab's proximity to the market, and noted the likelihood that the virus had probably leaked from the lab via an unsuspecting scientists.
What followed was a barrage of US media stories claiming the lab leak hypothesis was "unsubstantiated" and a "conspiracy theory". NPR went so far as to publish a piece quoted a handful of scientists (almost all of whom had deep financial and professional ties to China) talking up China's lab-security protocols and dismissing the theory as completely baseless. Yet, reporting since then has confirmed official complaints about safety at the lab.
Yet, here we are, one year later, and after at least two attempts to send teams of WHO scientists to investigate the origins of the virus, no foreigners were ever allowed to freely investigate.
Despite this, the team compiled a report on the origins of the coronavirus - a report that essentially confirms the "official narrative" that was reported early last year: that the virus likely originated in bats with an unknown "intermediary" (some have suggested a civet) likely transferring it to humans. The report, which was reviewed and, according to reports, heavily censored by Chinese authorities, insists that a lab leak was "extremely unlikely," according to an advanced copy leaked to the AP.
Well, after taking Beijing's word for it (with a few notable exceptions) for the last year, the American press is finally showing some skepticism about the virus's origins. Case in point: on Sunday night, CBS's "60 Minutes" ran a feature story questioning the offiicial narrative about the virus's origins, citing the latest delay of the WHO report (which, again, was leaked last night), as suspicious.
Lesley Stahl interviewed Jamie Metzl, who complained Friday that the report was "compromised", and Wuhan Lab-affiliate Peter Daszak, as she poked holes in the official narrative more efficiently than any mainstream reporter we have seen.
Metzl started by claiming that the WHO "investigation" was completely useless, comparing it to a "study tour" where scientists only saw "what the CCP wanted them to see."
Jamie Metzl: I wouldn't really call what's happened now an investigation. It's essentially a highly-chaperoned, highly-curated study tour.
Lesley Stahl: Study tour?
Jamie Metzl: Study tour. Everybody around the world is imagining this is some kind of full investigation. It's not. This group of experts only saw what the Chinese government wanted them to see.
As 60 Minutes points out, Metzl, a former NSC official in the Clinton administration and member of a WHO advisory committee on genetic engineering, is one of more than two dozen scientists and officials (including virologists) who signed an open letter earlier this month calling for a new investigation to return to China. Obviously, at this point, Beijing has had more than a year to effectuate a cover-up.
During their converstaion, Metzl explained just how much control Beijing has had over what the investigators saw and weren't allowed to see.
Jamie Metzl: We would have to ask the question, "Well, why in Wuhan?" To quote Humphrey Bogart, "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, why Wuhan?" What Wuhan does have is China's level four virology institute, with probably the world's largest collection of bat viruses, including bat coronaviruses.
Lesley Stahl: I had seen that the World Health Organization team only spent 3 hours at the lab.
Jamie Metzl: While they were there they didn't demand access to the records and samples and key personnel.
That's because of the ground rules China set with the WHO, which has never had the authority to make demands or enforce international protocols.
Jamie Metzl: It was agreed first that China would have veto power over - over who even got to be on the mission. Secondly -
Lesley Stahl: And WHO agreed to that.
Jamie Metzl: WHO agreed to that. On top of that, the WHO agreed that in most instances China would do the primary investigation.
And then just share its findings -
Lesley Stahl: No.
Jamie Metzl: - with these international experts. So these international experts weren't allowed to do their own primary investigation.
Lesley Stahl: Wait. You're saying that China did the investigation and showed the results to the committee and that was it?
Jamie Metzl: Pretty much that -
Lesley Stahl: Whoa.
Metzl followed this up with a powerful comparison: Imagine if the US had let the Soviets run an international investigation into Chernobyl? Metzl added: despite evidence of past deadly lab leaks in China, Metzl said no one on the team was trained to identify signs of a lab leak.
Also, while the team went on a four-week mission, two of those weeks were spent holed up at this hotel in quarantine. Once out, they had some tense exchanges with their counterparts, a team of Chinese experts, over their refusal to provide raw data. If the virus originated in animals, the key unanswered question is: how did the virus travel the thousand miles from the bat caves in southern China to Wuhan?
Unsurprisingly, the WHO team thinks it has an alternative explanation for this that doesn't involve a lab leak. Infected animals were simply captured at farms near the bat caves, and shipped the stock to the Huanan market in Wuhan.
To argue the other side, 60 Minutes brought in Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO team. Daszak has close ties to Chinese labs, and has frequently appeared in the American press to argue against the leak narrative. But after several minutes of equivocating, Stahl forced Daszak to admit the incontrovertible truth: that the WHO has no real evidence to disprove the lab leak. Essentially, the team is just taking China's word for it, according to Daszak. What choice did they have?
What's more, Daszak said Chinese government "minders" were in the room with the investigators at all times.
Peter Daszak: We met with them. We said, "Do you audit the lab?" And they said, "Annually." "Did it you audit it after the outbreak?" "Yes." "Was anything found?" "No." "Do you test your staff?" "Yes." No one was--
Lesley Stahl: But you're just taking their word for it.
Peter Daszak: Well, what else can we do? 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.
Lesley Stahl: But weren't the Chinese engaged in a cover-up? They destroyed evidence, they punished scientists who were trying to give evidence on this very question of the origin.
Peter Daszak: Well, that wasn't our task to find out if China had covered up the origin issue.
Lesley Stahl: No, I know. I'm just saying doesn't that make you wonder?
Peter Daszak: We didn't see any evidence of any false reporting or cover-up in the work that we did in China.
Lesley Stahl: Were there Chinese government minders in the room every time you were asking questions?
Peter Daszak: 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.
Lesley Stahl: Or to make sure they weren't telling you the whole truth and nothing but the truth--
Peter Daszak: 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.
To be sure, Metzl acknowledged that the WHO theory is "plausible," and that his own theory has some holes ("it's incomplete" he says, adding that he would need more data from Beijing, which the CCP has been reluctant to turn over). But most importantly, Daszak has a conflict of interest, Metzl said, because of his long-time collaboration with the Wuhan lab.
"60 Minutes" also interviewed Matt Pottinger, the former Trump Administration national security official and head of Asia policy who has been one of the most vocal skeptics of the official narrative. Beijing didn't share the genetic sequences of the virus from the WIV. Pottinger also said Beijing had ordered scientists to destroy all viral samples.
Now, none of that is in itself evidence that the virus leaked from the lab. But it's a clear sign that a major cover-up has taken place. And the US media's unwillingness (until now) to reckon with that has been difficult to explain.