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Tom Cotton's Virus Theory Doesn't Go Over Well

Senator calls attention to Chinese biolab near the epicenter of outbreak, but scientists scoff
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2020 12:23 PM CST

(Newser) – Sen. Tom Cotton over the weekend again floated a controversial theory about how the coronavirus came to be. On Fox, the Arkansas Republican suggested the outbreak is linked to a Chinese biochemical lab in the city of Wuhan. “We don’t have evidence that this disease originated there,” said Cotton, “but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says, and China right now is not giving evidence on that question at all.” The problem? As both the Washington Post and the New York Times point out, scientists have rejected the idea that the Chinese government is somehow responsible for the outbreak as a conspiracy theory with zero evidence to support it.

“There’s absolutely nothing in the genome sequence of this virus that indicates the virus was engineered,” a Rutgers chemical biologist tells the Post. “The possibility this was a deliberately released bioweapon can be firmly excluded.” And the World Health Organization has called such claims part of an "infodemic" of faulty information. Cotton previously suggested the idea earlier this month, earning a rebuke from the Chinese ambassador to the US, who said that such "rumors" will only create panic. Later Sunday, Cotton issued a series of tweets clarifying that he thinks the idea is only one of a number of "hypotheses" that warrant investigation. He added that the idea of a "deliberate release" is "very unlikely," though he said it can't yet be ruled out. The Times notes that another China critic, Steve Bannon, also has been a prominent purveyor of the theory. (Read more Tom Cotton stories.)

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