COVID Lab Leak 'Conspiracy Theorists' Demand Apologies After Revelations

A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) report has concluded that COVID-19 most likely came from a Chinese laboratory, prompting those branded 'conspiracy theorists' for believing as such to demand an apology after being previously brushed off and belittled.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal wrote, citing sources who have read a new classified report, that the federal department had judged with "low confidence" that the deadly virus could have emerged from a mishap at a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The DOE was previously undecided on how the global pandemic began.

The new document, from the national intelligence director, reportedly notes that different parts of the U.S. intelligence community have arrived at different views of the origins of the virus. It places the DOE in line with the FBI's view, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Wuhan lab COVID-19
Laboratory technicians wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) work on samples to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus at a COVID-19 testing facility, in Wuhan, China on August 5, 2021. The U.S. Department of Energy reportedly believes the virus came from a scientific mishap. STR/AFP via Getty Images

A publicly available assessment of the origins of COVID-19 by the office of the national intelligence director, based on information up to the end of August 2021, said four elements of the intelligence services had concluded with "low confidence" that the initial infection likely arose through exposure to an infected animal, while one agency had "moderate confidence" that it was likely a laboratory associated incident.

It did not name which agencies had formed each conclusion, and added that analysts at three members of the intelligence community remained unable to form an explanation.

A DOE spokesperson previously declined to comment on the specifics of the report when approached by Newsweek.

They added: "The Department of Energy continues to support the thorough, careful, and objective work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19, as the President directed."

Despite the tentative conclusion, the new position marks a significant shift in intelligence beliefs at a time when tensions in relations with China have risen. Mao Ning, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, called for the U.S. to "stop defaming China" in response to the reports, according to the New York Times.

"Everything we were called conspiracy theorists and horrible racists for saying ... was TRUE," Jennifer Sey, a former gymnast and author, who was an outspoken critic of school mask mandates, tweeted in response to the revelations. "Vindication is not enough. We need apologies."

"The same people who shamed us, canceled us and wanted to put us in jail for saying Covid came from the Wuhan Lab ... are starting to say what we said all along," Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican representative for Georgia, wrote.

"There was always enormous evidence that the Wuhan coronavirus leaked from the Wuhan lab," Mike Pompeo, former U.S. Secretary of State and CIA director under Donald Trump, said. "I'm glad the Department of Energy recognizes this reality."

Wuhan lab COVID-19 emergence
This aerial view shows the P4 laboratory (C) on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on May 27, 2020. Opened in 2018, it has been accused by some U.S. officials of being the source of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Hector RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

Trump has repeatedly blamed China for the virus, and has stated in the past that it came from a lab in Wuhan.

Among intelligence agencies and the scientific community, many still believe it is more plausible that COVID-19 emerged in the human population in late 2019 by jumping the species barrier from an infected animal. It has commonly been stated that a bat may have infected livestock in a wet market in China.

A July 2022 study comparing the two theories found it more likely that the virus entered the human population through the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, by analyzing where the locations of the earliest human cases were concentrated.

Even among those that believe the virus emerged from a laboratory think it was an accident rather than intentional.

The 2021 intelligence report stresses that the coronavirus was not a biological weapon released by the Chinese, stating that analysis of the virus suggested it was not genetically engineered, but noted it had low confidence in this as "genetic engineering techniques can make modifications difficult to identify and we have gaps in our knowledge of naturally occurring coronaviruses."