Poynter Institute’s Politifact retracted one of its September 2020 fact checks on a virologist from Hong Kong who asserted the coronavirus was man-made in a Chinese lab.
Dr. Li-Meng Yan, a virologist and former University of Hong Kong postdoctoral fellow, said on Fox News COVID-19 was created in a Wuhan lab and intentionally spread by the Chinese government to people. The since retracted fact check asserted, “The claim is inaccurate and ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire!”
“If you want to know the exact motive, the exact idea, I think people have to come to ask the Communist Party why did they do it, because they are the ones who do it. We cannot always understand their evil thinking. You have to come to ask them. But what we see already proves that they have done that, it harmed everyone in the world,” Yan said.
Politifact claimed social media posts by users had mentioned Yan’s comments, and that the fact check was an effort to stop the spread of disinformation. An editor’s note now puts forth that Yan’s theory “is more widely disputed.”
“When this fact-check was first published in September 2020, PolitiFact’s sources included researchers who asserted the SARS-CoV-2 virus could not have been manipulated,” the editor’s note said. “That assertion is now more widely disputed. For that reason, we are removing this fact-check from our database pending a more thorough review.”
The original fact check cited a March 2020 Nature Medicine statement claiming no evidence shows the coronavirus was manipulated in a lab environment. Nicholas Wade, a science reporter at the New York Times, wrote a piece in May calling out the five virologists’ assessment.
Wade said the statement is “full of absurdly large holes” as well as “grounded in nothing but two inconclusive speculations.” He added that the statement “convinced the world’s press that SARS2 could not have escaped from a lab.” Wade’s piece was published after several scientists put out a letter in the journal Science urging for a thorough investigation into COVID-19’s origin.
After Yan published a piece Monday referencing the fact that virologists determined there is evidence pointing to the lab accident theory and the natural theory — whereby the virus was transmitted from animals to humans — Politifact moved to retract its fact check.
While the website removed its fact check based on available information, a fact check on Rep. Scott Perry, R-P.A., is still available on the website. Perry claimed in October the coronavirus was “constructed” in a Wuhan-based lab.
The Daily Caller News Foundation contacted Politifact who then affirmed it is “now more widely disputed” that the coronavirus did not emerge from a lab. The fact-checker nonetheless told the Caller they still considered the Congressman’s comments to be false.