Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) continues to push a debunked conspiracy theory that the coronavirus is linked to a biological lab in China.
The bogus claim, which has been circulating in right-wing publications and elsewhere on the internet, also suggests the virus may have started as an unleashed biological weapon.
Scientists say the virus may have begun with animal-to-human transmission at a Wuhan seafood and wildlife market. But Cotton disagrees.
“We don’t know where it originated,” Cotton said on Fox News on Sunday. “But we do know we have to get to the bottom of that. We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.”
Cotton admitted there was no evidence to suggest the disease actually originated at the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, but then complained about China’s “duplicity and dishonesty.”
Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the U.S., denounced Cotton’s misinformation on “Face The Nation” earlier this month.
“It’s very harmful, it’s very dangerous to stir up suspicion, rumors and spread them among the people,” Cui said. “For one thing, this will create panic. Another thing is that it will fan up racial discrimination, xenophobia, all these things that will really harm our joint efforts to combat the virus.”
Vipin Narang, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The Washington Post that “we don’t have any evidence” that the general population was exposed to a virus through an accident at a lab. He called Cotton’s speculation a conspiracy theory that was borderline irresponsible.
“Cotton should spend more time funding the agencies in the United States that can help contain and combat the virus rather than trying to assign blame,” Narang said.
Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, told the Post that there was nothing in the genome sequence of the coronavirus that indicated it had been engineered.
“The possibility this was a deliberately released bioweapon can be firmly excluded,” Ebright added.
The coronavirus, know as COVID-19, has killed at least 1,666 people and infected more than 68,500 people globally, the vast majority in mainland China.