A science and health reporter for the New York Times argued in a now-deleted tweet that the theory that the coronavirus might have come from a Wuhan lab in China was racist.
What she said: Apoorva Mandavilli, an investigative journalist who covers coronavirus-related stories for the newspaper, claimed in a tweet this week that the theory that the virus might have escaped from a lab has “racist roots.”
“Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not yet here,” Mandavilli tweeted.
She eventually removed the tweet from the platform but did not back off her argument that the lab leak theory is rooted in racism.
“A theory can have racist roots and still gather reasonable supporters along the way,” she wrote to a user who criticized the point she was trying to make in her original tweet. “Doesn’t make the roots any less racist or the theory any more convincing, though.”
She also wrote that the notion the virus escaped from a lab was “possible” and not “plausible.”
“And almost impossible to disprove, meaning it will probably not go away till people lose interest,” Mandavilli argued.
She later claimed in a tweet that she deleted her previous posts because they were “badly phrased.”
“The origin of the pandemic is an important line of reporting that my colleagues are covering aggressively,” the Times reporter added.
Worth noting: Mandavilli even told Fox News “not to write” about her tweet because “it unleashed some incredibly nasty tweets and DMs.”
The publication’s rules: The New York Times’s social media guidelines say its reporters should “not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation.”
How we got here: Madavavilli’s tweets come at a time when the media is changing its tune on the lab leak theory in light of recent reports that cast doubt on the initial rejection of the possibility that the virus might have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The media spend most of last year dismissing it as “fringe” and a “conspiracy” theory. Some reporters have blamed former President Trump’s support for the theory for the media’s rejection of it, insinuating that it lost credibility because it was backed by him.
“Given everything we know about how Trump handled such things, caution and skepticism were invited,” Washington Post senior reporter Aaron Blake wrote.
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