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The COVID-19 Lab Leak Hypothesis: Did the Media Fall Victim to a Misinformation Campaign?

The theory that SARS-CoV-2 may have originated in a lab was considered a debunked conspiracy theory, but some experts are revisiting it amid calls for a new, more thorough investigation. Paul Thacker explains the dramatic U turn and the role of contemporary science journalism

For most of 2020, the notion that SARS-CoV-2 may have originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, was treated as a thoroughly debunked conspiracy theory. Only conservative news media sympathetic to President Donald Trump and a few lonely reports dared suggest otherwise. But that all changed in the early months of 2021, and today most outlets across the political spectrum agree: the “lab leak” scenario deserves serious investigation.

Understanding this dramatic U turn on arguably the most important question for preventing a future pandemic, and why it took nearly a year to happen, involves understanding contemporary science journalism.