Former President Donald Trump took a victory lap over the theory that the Chinese coronavirus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
It “came from Wuhan, it came from the lab,” he said in an exclusive interview this week. “I don’t have a question: ‘Did it come from the lab?’ I have a question, ‘Did they do it on purpose, or was it an accident?’”
Most likely, the former president guesses, the virus escaped the Wuhan lab “through gross incompetence, and it got away from them [the Chinese authorities], and they panicked.”
“I don’t think they knew what to do,” he continued. “The one thing they did know to do is to shut it [Wuhan] off from the rest of China,” but not to “shut it [China] off to the outside world.”
Over the last month, a number of prominent scientists and science reporters have argued the so-called lab leak theory is plausible if not probable, challenging peers who spent months disparaging it as a conspiracy theory. Intelligence reported by the Wall Street Journal in May indicated several scientists at the WIV were hospitalized in November 2019, weeks before China’s “patient zero” was identified, fueling speculation about the lab leak theory.
Sudden consideration of the lab leak theory by the corporate media prompted an about-face from the Biden administration, which called for a 90-day intelligence community review of the virus’s origins mere hours after revelations emerged it had quashed a similar effort initiated by the Trump administration.
Despite the Biden administration and the corporate media’s abrupt change of tone, the Wall Street Journal’s recent revelations largely corroborated what the outgoing Trump administration State Department had theorized months earlier. Trump sees the sudden acceptance of the lab leak theory by the same institutions that previously mocked it as intensely political, attributing the original dismissal of the theory to two potential causes.
The first is simply that he endorsed it, and therefore a hostile political and media establishment automatically opposed it. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman has basically admitted as much.
Second, China has American “politicians … wrapped around their finger,” Trump hypothesized. “China told them to” take an adverse position, he said of the public officials who harangued him over the theory. From the earliest days of the COVID outbreak, the Chinese Communist Party has sought to distance itself from the virus broadly, and the WIV as its point of origin in particular — obfuscation that itself makes the lab leak theory more plausible.
In a recent rally, President Trump called for China to pay at least $10 trillion in restitution for the damage caused by the outbreak, and recommended “all countries should collectively cancel any debt they owe to China as a down payment on reparations.”
China “should pay something for that kind of gross mismanagement, incompetence, or if it were done purposely,” he told me.
Trump’s comments came during an interview conducted for a book project on U.S.-China policy on which I am working thanks to The Fund for American Studies’ Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship.