Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic “more likely than not” was the result of an accidental leak at a laboratory in China.
McCaul is the latest lawmaker to join the growing chorus of politicians and public health experts giving credence to the once controversial theory that the pandemic may have originated in China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.
During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” McCaul said he based his opinion on his committee’s investigation into COVID-19′s origins as well as an intelligence briefing the committee received last week.
“I do think it’s more likely than not it emerged out of the lab ― most likely accidentally ― for several reasons,” McCaul told host Jake Tapper. “And first of all ... let me say this is the worst cover-up in human history, that we’ve seen, resulting in 3.5 million deaths, creating economic devastation around the globe.”
McCaul pointed to the recent declassification of a U.S. intelligence report that indicated three researchers at the lab were hospitalized in November 2019 with flu-like symptoms that were consistent with COVID-19.
“That was suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party,” McCaul said. “Since that time, in December, they silenced and detained the doctors who were reporting a SARS-like virus, which under international health regulations had to be reported within 24 hours.”
McCaul accused the Chinese government of destroying samples from the lab in an attempt to bury evidence of a leak and initially refusing to admit that the virus could be transmitted among humans. He also pointed to State Department cables from 2018 that warned of inadequate safety protocols at the lab.
What’s more, the SARS virus escaped a Chinese research lab in Beijing in 2004, which resulted in at least six positive cases and the forced quarantining of hundreds of people, McCaul said.
“They were studying corona-like viruses from bats, genetically mutating them and then trying to develop a vaccine for what would be a next wave of a SARS-like virus ― almost precisely what COVID-19 is,” McCaul told CNN.
Though many Democrats initially dismissed the lab leak theory, with some even condemning it as rooted in racism, others have begun to accept it as a possibility.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced his push for the U.S. intelligence community to “redouble its efforts” in investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new report, which is expected to build on existing intelligence, is due within 90 days.
Biden said that investigators may have additional questions for China as they work to determine whether it is more likely that the coronavirus emerged by accident from a lab that studies coronaviruses or whether it jumped from animals to humans in a more natural environment, as many experts have theorized.
Asked what Biden should do if the investigation determines the pandemic originated in the Wuhan lab, McCaul said the U.S. should “pull our supply chain,” including medical equipment manufacturing, out of the region, which would hurt China economically.
“I’m glad the president finally has done this ― it’s long overdue,” McCaul said of Biden’s call for an additional investigation. He warned that the investigation could be “very inconclusive” if China has “destroyed everything at the lab.”
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