As the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on America during Donald Trump's presidency last year, failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lambasted as racist the president's suggestions that the virus may have originated in a Chinese lab.
Just over a decade earlier, however, then-Secretary of State Clinton seems to have had a much different perspective.
What are the details?
According to a leaked State Department cable from 2009, Clinton expressed concerns that the Wuhan Institute of Virology — newly accredited with biosafety level 4 clearance — could lead to "biological weapons proliferation."
The cable, obtained via WikiLeaks and unearthed by Human Events, appears to have been sent in June 2009 to member nations ahead of the Australia Group's plenary meeting in Paris, scheduled Sept. 21-25.
According to its website, the Australia Group is an informal forum of countries that "seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons." China is not a member country.
At the outset of the cable, Clinton stated, "We believe it is important to focus on emerging chemical and biological technologies, trends in the trade of CBW-related goods and threats." Later, specifically addressing France, Clinton wrote:
The U.S. believes participants would benefit from hearing about your experiences assisting China in setting up a Biosafety Level-4 (BSL-4) laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology from the export control and intangible technology transfer perspectives. We are particularly interested to know how China plans to vet incoming foreign researchers from countries of biological weapons proliferation concern.
In 2003, the WIV was approved by the Chinese Academy of Sciences to begin construction of a BSL-4 lab. The project was eventually completed in 2014 with significant help along the way from France.
Earlier in the cable, Clinton voiced concerns about China's involvement in biological weapons proliferation, in general. She asked Australia to relay what it knew about China's Institutes of Biological Products, using "overhead imagery analysis, if possible," and share its "perceptions of the CBW proliferation activities by Chinese entities."
Why does it matter?
Though not quite accusations, Clinton's assertions certainly implied she had concerns about China's biological weapons programs, specifically in reference to the WIV.
Yet, in March 2020, when Trump referred to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus" due to its origination point, Clinton turned the tables.
"The president is turning to racist rhetoric to distract from his failures to take the coronavirus seriously early on, make tests widely available, and adequately prepare the country for a period of crisis," she tweeted. "Don't fall for it. Don't let your friends and family fall for it."
Not surprisingly, not long after Clinton's tweet posted, it was picked up by Chinese state-run media and lauded as a defense of the truth.
Though dismissed by public health experts and mainstream media figures for over a year, the theory suggesting that the virus leaked from a Chinese lab has picked up immense steam in recent months.