Scientist Peter Daszak, whose nonprofit funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology for years, claimed in a new interview there is no evidence for the COVID-19 lab-leak theory, while admitting it hasn’t been definitively investigated.
Daszak was the lone U.S.-based representative for the World Health Organization’s investigation into the pandemic’s origins, and his strong connections to the Wuhan lab as head of the EcoHealth Alliance have drawn sharp scrutiny.
In a new interview with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, Daszak acknowledged there hasn’t been a “definitive investigation” of the lab-leak theory. The notion the deadly virus escaped the Wuhan lab rather than developed in nature has drawn increased interest this year following reports of sick researchers there in 2019 and the lab’s well-established security concerns.
“There’s a lot of smoke here,” Gupta said. “No definitive flame, but database goes down. No sharing of samples of these potential lab workers who got sickened. No forensic analysis of the lab. It starts to sound like there wasn’t a really definitive investigation of the lab-leak theory.”
“I think that’s right. There’s not been a definitive investigation of the lab-leak theory,” Daszak said.
“Will there be?” Gupta asked.
“Well, I think that it needs to follow the evidence,” Daszak said. “If there’s definitive evidence of the lab leak, then that needs to be investigated. There is none yet.”
“But part of the reason there’s none is because information’s not being shared,” Gupta said.
“Right. If we want to see information shared from China about what went on with the lab, we need Phase 2 to begin very rapidly,” Daszak said, concluding the clip.
The interview was part of a special report CNN is airing on the origins of COVID-19.
China has repeatedly denied the virus leaked from its lab and even disseminated conspiracy theories through state media that the virus didn’t even come from China. While the WHO’s investigation Daszak helped with initially found the lab-leak theory was “extremely unlikely,” it has since reversed course and called for further probes, which China is resisting. The WHO admitted at the time that its Phase 1 probe was limited in scope.
Daszak has repeatedly insisted the Wuhan lab he’s worked with could not be the source of the pandemic. He told “60 Minutes” there was “zero evidence” for the theory, and Daszak also orchestrated the widely cited February 2020 letter in The Lancet from 27 scientists who “strongly condemn[ed] conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”
That letter did not disclose to readers that Daszak’s group had funded research at the Wuhan lab, and at least three of those signers have since said the laboratory accident theory merits further investigation.
Daszak’s NGO funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan lab through grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Both Daszak and NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci have flatly denied any monies went to “gain of function” studies, a controversial technique which involves manipulating viruses to make them more infectious for research.
Daszak is quoted in a 2015 Nature report discussing the benefits of such research, however. In a 2019 interview with virologist Vincent Racaniello, Daszak discussed the ease of manipulating coronaviruses for the purposes of vaccine development.
Multiple media outlets declared in 2020 that the lab-leak theory was nearly impossible and even “debunked” before reversing course this year. Some reporters admitted that Republicans’ espousement of the theory played into its dismissal in the press.