- - Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Comedian Jon Stewart, a famously hardcore liberal, recently dismantled the longtime claim from Democrats and top U.S. health officials that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, emerged naturally from some sort of animal in Wuhan, China.

The former host of “The Daily Show” went on a five-minute rant in an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show.” “Science has, in many ways, helped ease the suffering of this pandemic … which was more than likely caused by science,” he said to laughter and applause.

But Mr. Colbert interrupted, saying he didn’t back the lab-leak theory and asked Mr. Stewart, “Do you mean perhaps there’s a chance that this was created in a lab? If there’s evidence, I’d love to hear it.”

That’s when Mr. Stewart let him have it.

“A chance? Oh my God!” Mr. Stewart yelled. “There’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China. What do we do? Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab. The disease is the same name as the lab! That’s just a little too weird, don’t you think?” Mr. Stewart said.

But President Joe Biden, top Democrats, and even Dr. Anthony Fauci have long contended that the virus emerged naturally at a wet market in Wuhan, in a bat or a pangolin or some other animal. 

A year ago, Mr. Fauci said: “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated. Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.”

For months, liberals mocked anyone who even asked whether that version of COVID-19’s emergence holds water.

Yet things have changed dramatically over the last few weeks. Republicans on Capitol Hill recently demanded answers from top administration officials about the origin of SARS-CoV-2, and suddenly, Team Biden is coming around.

“Senior Biden administration officials overseeing an intelligence review into the origins of the coronavirus now believe the theory that the virus accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan is at least as credible as the possibility that it emerged naturally in the wild — a dramatic shift from a year ago, when Democrats publicly downplayed the so-called lab leak theory,” CNN reported on Sunday.

“Intelligence agencies that were skeptical of the lab leak theory a year ago, like the CIA, also now view it as a credible line of inquiry,” a source told CNN. “There has been a shift in their point of view.”

That dovetails with a new international move toward the lab theory. On Thursday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, said it had been “premature” to dismiss the possibility that a lab leak had spawned the pandemic. He also urged China to provide “direct information on what the situation of these labs was before and at the start of the pandemic.”

Back when some first began asking whether COVID-19 emerged from the Wuhan lab, Facebook banned users from writing posts suggesting that the virus was man-made. Twitter once banned a user for suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic originated from the lab.

But in May, one reporter at a liberal newspaper admitted why the mainstream media so roundly rejected the theory.

“It has become evident that some corners of the mainstream media overcorrected when it came to one particular theory from Trump and his allies: that the coronavirus emanated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, rather than naturally,” Washington Post senior reporter Aaron Blake wrote in an analysis piece. Facebook and Twitter later lifted their bans.

Also, in May, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee claimed that “significant circumstantial evidence” exists showing COVID-19 first emerged from a leak at China’s lab.

“International efforts to discover the true source of the virus, however, have been stymied by a lack of cooperation from the People’s Republic of China,” they wrote in the report. “Nevertheless, significant circumstantial evidence raises serious concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak may have been a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

That came even before The Wall Street Journal broke a major story: Three researchers at the Wuhan lab were hospitalized with an unknown infection in November 2019 — a month before China first officially announced the emergence of COVID-19. And they hadn’t eaten any bat.

It’s sad that until recently, liberals and their cohorts in the mainstream media — along with the social platform giants — derided anyone who dared even ask the question. Mr. Biden, along with the ever-equivocating Democrats, are finally saying, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t take China‘s word on this.” 

And like Stewart, they’re beginning to realize that the coronavirus that ripped across the world just happens to have the same name as the lab in the city where it first emerged. The idea that the virus came from an animal is sounding ever battier.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at jcurl@washingtontimes.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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