On Monday, NBC News published a puff-piece for the Wuhan Institute of Virology - giving controversial lab which 'could pass for a college campus' a glowing review after a five-hour visit and interviews with several employees.
The report slams the Trump administration for showing "no credible proof to back up claims that the coronavirus was either manufactured at or accidentally leaked from the lab," while helping the CCP dispute an April Washington Post report over US Embassy cables warning of safety issues at the facility.
The author of that WaPo piece, Josh Rogin, has just shredded NBC News over their report - which he says contains 'several errors.'
The NBC story says that U.S. officials "said they observed" serious safety issues at the lab. That's just wrong. The officials reported the Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists TOLD THEM about the safety issues. https://t.co/kgwc21YwBP There's more...— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) August 10, 2020
Rogin continues (condensed thread via Twitter, emphasis ours):
Wang Yanyi, director of the WIV, told NBC reporters the U.S. officials visited in March 2018, two months after the first cable was written. The truth is they visited three times, both before and after the Jan. 2018 cable. Did U.S. officials make an entire visit? Not likely..
That calls into question Wang's credibility. She also says biosafety was not discussed. Again, calling several U.S. diplomats fabricators? NBC reports that without any pushback. But there's more...
The NBC reporters toured the lab, as if that would tell them anything. What did they expect to find, a piece of paper they forgot to throw out that says "Coronavirus Origin Evidence"? It's absurd to think that has any probative value. But there's more...
The NBC piece also launders more warped logic by Peter Daszak, who has a direct conflict of interest. "The fact that they published the sequence so quickly suggests to me that they weren't trying to cover up anything." Or, maybe they were so quick because they recognized it.— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) August 10, 2020
This, from Yuan, the Wuhan institute's vice director is interesting and true: "So far, there is no evidence to show that the novel coronavirus jumped from animals to people in Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan." No evidence.
Overall, the Chinese scientists can't be blamed for toeing the Party line. They deviate from that under penalty of death. But U.S. news organizations must do better than presenting a walk around a lab and an interview with falsehoods in it as telling us anything about the virus.
Rogin then explains why the truth matters:
The actual origin story is critically important scientifically to understanding how the outbreak started and therefore how to fight it and how to prevent the next one. Should we spend our time shutting down wet markets or stopping risky bat research? Get it?— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) August 10, 2020