That the Covid pandemic could’ve leaked from a lab in Wuhan went from terrible, racist conspiracy theory to plausible overnight for the mainstream media, without a shred of accountability.

If you don’t believe me, look at these stories side-by-side, then vs. now⤵️
You may remember that much of the really bad coverage was focused on @SenTomCotton’s suggestion that we better understand the potential for a lab leak from Wuhan.

The difference in framing here from @nytimes between May 2020 and May 2021 is...stark.
But it wasn’t just NYT. There’s a lot of ammo from @CNN, too.

Not even two months ago, they ran a piece writing off the lab leak theory as “like something out of a comic book.”

Yesterday, the tone had changed, without any reference to their own role in the previous debate.
But if you go back further, @CNN’s coverage gets even worse.

Early in 2020, they ran CCP talking points suggesting it was all a political tactic based on “disinformation.”

A little over a year later, CNN is asking the same questions President Trump and his team were panned for.
@ChrisCillizza has been a key voice for @CNN on this. In February 2020, he cited a CNN factchecker who concluded you can “say that didn’t happen” about the lab leak.

Yesterday, he seemed baffled that Dr. Fauci wasn’t entirely on his side anymore.

So much for “trust the science”
I can’t say this enough. In early 2020, @washingtonpost accused @SenTomCotton of “fanning the embers of a conspiracy theory repeatedly debunked by experts” for asking the same questions the Post’s reporting is currently asking.
And for some reason @washingtonpost’s timeline of events just so happens to omit their own “fact check” of the lab leak theory from April 2020 that concluded “the balance of the scientific evidence strongly suggests the conclusion that the new coronavirus emerged from nature.”
@politico had a quicker about-face than most. While they decried that the Wuhan lab was “at the center of conspiracy theories about the pandemic’s origin,” in March 2021 they resurfaced worries about “risky coronavirus experiments” from 2018.

Wonder why “no one listened.”
Much of the problem originally was that so many outlets relied on less than trustworthy sources - like the lab itself - to reject the lab leak theory & render it a “conspiracy theory.”

Even @Reuters, who doesn’t usually make the threads, did this. It was unbelievably pervasive.
I don’t know how else to put it. @NPR was awful about this one.

In April 2020, the story was “scientists debunk lab accident theory” but in March 2021 the idea suddenly “takes on new life”.

Did anyone consider who killed the original theory? I have an idea.
I’ve talked often about how the media has an enormous power in shaping narratives through framing.

Here’s an example from @thehill. Trump is portrayed as acting in bad faith (“efforts to blame China for the virus”) and then that framing gets jettisoned when no longer necessary.
For @BBCNews, the lab leak theory went from a conspiracy theory on par with China’s suggestion that the US created the virus to “all hypotheses are on the table” without an ounce of self awareness.
Again, why did no one at @BusinessInsider stop to consider whether the director of the lab that had just been accused (by the leader of the free world) of starting a once in a century plague might not be telling the entire truth?

Seems something changed since.
Unfortunately there was a lot to work with for @BusinessInsider. I couldn’t help but include these two pieces that haven’t exactly aged perfectly.
The extent to which the mainstream media trusted the lab in Wuhan at their word is jarring. @FortuneMagazine was just one of many.

But it’s also impossible to ignore - both here and in general - that the contrast is always between Wuhan and President Trump. More on that later.
The worst part of all of this (except for the damage to public trust, of course) is the absolute lack of accountability.

The media totally blew it on this story in ways that could make it less likely that we ever get to the bottom of this. Without offering so much as an apology.
There have been a couple of exceptions. The best in my estimation is this piece from @jonathanchait that tracks through some of the bad coverage in a way that doesn’t make excuses: google.com/amp/s/nymag.co…
But broadly, the old reporting went down the memoryhole and has already been incinerated. No lessons will be learned. No improvements will be made. This will happen again.

And it will continue to be everyday Americans who suffer the impact of bad information.
My (unsolicited) postmortem: the idea that President Trump could’ve been right about something this important w/o definitive public proof was something journos and newsrooms simply could not bring themselves to take seriously.
Instead, because they hated Trump so much, they preferred to trust a lab run by shadowy hostile autocrats who had every incentive to lie (and long history of lying) about something that could turn out to be the most consequential coverup in living memory.

That’s...not good.
But these are precisely the sorts of blind spots we should expect from a collection of people who all share the same worldview. Until that changes - until we get more perspectives/people who don’t have those blind spots - all of this will continue to get worse.
And these aren’t all the bad takes. I did another thread last week with even more, it’s just that not every outlet has done an about face (yet).

I have a feeling this thread will get longer, unfortunately.
And if you haven’t already, read this piece from @redsteeze that urges us not to let this one go by unremarked. google.com/amp/s/spectato…
Okay, this one blew up so I’ll reup that I finally broke down and made a Patreon. If you’ve ever felt urged to throw me some beer money, link is below.

Half of anything I get will go to a charity combatting homelessness in DC. patreon.com/drewholden360?…
Probably goes without saying but, after all of this, Biden’s decision to shut down the probe into the lab leak theory doesn’t look great. google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.…
Also this piece and thread by @mattyglesias is really good.

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More from @DrewHolden360

24 May
If you think it is more important to have a commission to study the Capitol riot on Jan 6th than one to study how a virus that killed 3.5M people worldwide and 500k Americans originated and whether a hostile foreign power covered it up, I think your priorities need attention.
To those suggesting we do both, I would like to introduce you to Washington and how we do things around here, because we cannot, in any meaningful sense, do both.
I had a mini thread about this the other day but I think one of the biggest topics where I differ from the establishment/old guard view on current events is on Jan 6th.

I think what happened is awful. I think it’s absurd to treat it like it was 9/11, as so many seem wont to do.
Read 4 tweets
18 May

The idea that Covid-19 may have leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China has gained mainstream traction of late.

It can be easy to forget that, a little over a year ago, the idea was derided as a vile, senseless conspiracy theory.

Let’s revisit. ⤵️
@SenTomCotton took much of the initial heat for suggesting this as a possibility back in January.

Here’s what the @nytimes had to say about his “fringe theory” that “lacks evidence” and which “scientists have dismissed.”

Apparently those concerns have been un-dismissed since. ImageImage
In another piece in 2020, @nytimes concluded that “most agencies remain skeptical” and “scientists are dismissive” of the lab leak theory. Unfortunately, appears that was certainly true, but not to their credit.

Yet another story continues to describe the idea as a conspiracy. ImageImageImage
Read 28 tweets
18 May
Reminder that when Trump sat in a truck as President, Alex Petri - who gets paid to write things for WaPo - wrote a fan fic story about him just driving away in it.

I wish I were kidding.
And let me tell you, it was deranged.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who remembers how very bizarre the last four years was.
Read 6 tweets
13 May

@charlescwcooke’s brilliant piece on Rebekah Jones, supposedly a COVID whistleblower in Florida, exposed her as a fraud & a charlatan.

You may be wondering how the grift went on for so long. My hunch: unscrupulous media attention.

I thought it was time to revisit.⤵️
First, quick background.

@GeoRebekah earned media fame after she was fired for, purportedly, refusing to “fudge” the #’s on COVID deaths/cases in FL. But as Cooke explains none of her story was (or even could be) true. She never had access to data at all: google.com/amp/s/www.nati…
But that of course didn’t stop mainstream outlets from rushing to report how big, bad Governor DeSantis had punished this poor whistleblower supposedly trying to do her job.

That’s, at least, how anyone would read the coverage from @CNN.

Any follow up from those legal experts? ImageImageImage
Read 25 tweets
12 May
Part of why the Rep Cheney fiasco is such news is that political courage doesn’t really exist anymore, so something like a member of Congress picking intraparty fights & thereby losing a temporary position 99% of Americans couldn’t describe is the closest approximation we have.
Being a member of Congress is basically a golden ticket to the good life so long as you don’t get caught breaking lots of laws that people care about - and even then, that’s no guarantee of punishment. Even disgraced members tend to be just fine.
The fallback option is always making a zillion dollars as a lobbyist. How much courage does it take to upset the apple cart when that’s your safety net?
Read 9 tweets
12 May
Anyone earnestly interested in helping our republic would be trying to improve one or the other of the two political parties that will exist and matter in our lifetime, not launch quixotic vanity campaigns for a third party.
That’s what really gets me about all of this. These people - from Bill Kristol and Evan McMullin to the anonymous oped guy - saw another faction wrest control of the GOP and rather than try to make it better they picked up their ball and went home *that same campaign cycle*
It’s short sighted and petulant and self-important. And it reveals that those jumping ship are infinitely more interested in holding onto temporal power than they are anyone’s long term best interest or the principles that (continue to!) shape political parties.
Read 4 tweets

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