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Ted Cruz attacks fact-checkers over Chinese lab leak report

By Francis Walshe
|
February 27, 2023

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently got his own back on Glenn Kessler, a fact-checker with the Washington Post, over remarks Kessler previously made about Cruz's stance on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. His comment followed a news release from the US Energy Department revealing that officials there believe the virus came from a Chinese lab, reported The Washington Post.

The Background

In May 2020, Kessler tweeted a video that allegedly showed it was "doubtful," that the COVID-19 virus originated in a lab.

Senator Cruz torched the journalist over his post in a quote tweet, stating the Post was "abandoning all pretenses of journalism to produce CCP propaganda," and that "if this reporter submitted this video in a freshman logic class, it wouldn’t receive a passing grade."

In his response to Cruz, Kessler stated the senator had "missed the scientific animation in the video that shows how it is virtually impossible for this virus [to] jump from the lab. Or the many interviews with actual scientists," adding "We deal in facts, and viewers can judge for themselves."

In the intervening months, however, the lab leak theory continued to move away from the realm of conspiracy theory and toward an accepted possibility.

The Response

The revelation that the Energy Department regarded a lab leak as the most likely cause of the pandemic drew a snarky tweet from Senator Cruz highlighting Kessler's previous attacks on him.

The senator's tweet shared a screenshot of the WaPo story covering the Energy Department decision. Cruz used the caption "4 [clown-face emojis] for Glenn," using a popular internet trope to highlight when someone has made a mistake.

Ted Cruz wasn't the only one to poke fun at Kessler over his remarks in 2020.

Steve Guest, a GOP aide who currently serves as the Texas senator's special adviser for communications, called Kessler's remarks his "BIGGEST MISS ever" via Twitter. Guest then quoted Kessler's tweet and added a number of clown-face emojis.

The Energy Department Findings

According to the Wall Street Journal article on the story, the new position on the origin of the virus was confirmed by "a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress." It also stated that the agency was previously undecided on the question of the virus' origin.

The WSJ article also noted that "four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided."

Kessler Walking Back His Remarks

This isn't the first time Glenn Kessler has been forced to come to terms with the potential inaccuracy of his position on the lab leak theory.

In May 2021, Kessler wrote an article for the "Fact Checker" segment on The Washington Post entitled "Timeline: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible."

He began the piece by stating that "the source of the coronavirus that has left more than 3 million people dead around the world remains a mystery." He continued by noting that the lab leak theory, which he had previously dismissed out of hand, had recently "gained new credence."

Kessler noted that "efforts to discover a natural source of the virus have failed" and that "early efforts to spotlight a lab leak often got mixed up with speculation that the virus was deliberately created as a bioweapon."

This, the embattled journalist proclaimed, "made it easier for many scientists to dismiss the lab scenario as tin-hat nonsense."

Before sharing a timeline of the events relevant to the story, Kessler opined that "the Trump administration’s messaging was often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims."