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Jon Stewart says he was 'surprised at the pushback' to his lab-leak theory comments
Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images

Jon Stewart says he was 'surprised at the pushback' to his lab-leak theory comments

Comedian Jon Stewart said in a newly published interview that he was surprised at the pushback to jokes he made mocking people who don't believe COVID-19 leaked from a Wuhan lab.

In June, the former "Daily Show" host outraged his progressive fans when he sounded off on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" about how it seems like more than just coincidence that the coronavirus pandemic's first major outbreak happened in Wuhan, where there is a lab that studies coronaviruses.

"The disease is the same name as the lab!" Stewart exclaimed on the show.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter about his return to television with his upcoming Apple TV+ show, "The Problem with Jon Stewart," the comic reflected on his comments to Stephen Colbert while discussing the power of social media.

"It's democratized connection and also democratized destruction," Stewart said, talking about Twitter. "Not to quote MC Hammer, but you can't take the measure without considering the measurer. It's kind of the point I was making on Colbert that everybody got mad about, which was, 'These are just tools, we're the ones that f*** them up.'"

"You're referencing your June appearance on 'The Late Show' where you went all in on the theory that the coronavirus originated from a lab in China. I couldn't tell if Colbert was entertained by your bit or maybe a little nervous," reporter Lacey Rose observed.

"I don't think he was nervous," Stewart replied. "It's not like he doesn't know what I'm going to say. Listen, how it got to be that if it was a scientific accident, it's conservative, and if it came from a wet market, it's liberal, I don't know — I'm just not sure how that got politicized. But it was an inelegant way to get to a bit that I've done for years, which is our good-intentioned brilliance will more than likely be our demise. The bit is about the last words that man ever utters, which are, 'Hey, it worked.' I guess I was a little surprised at the pushback."

After Stewart jokingly compared the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan to a "chocolate outbreak" in Hershey, Pennsylvania, an outraged social media mob condemned him for pushing a "conspiracy theory" about the origins of COVID-19.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology's role in the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic is a controversial topic. While most scientists maintain that the most likely origin for COVID-19 is natural spillover from an animal, there are others who question whether the lab's work with coronaviruses had something to do with the outbreak. The State Department raised concerns with the lab's security in late 2017, and reports indicate that 2019 researchers at the lab became ill with COVID-like symptoms before the outbreak in Wuhan was identified.

Initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory by public health experts and scientists who had ties to the Wuhan lab, the lab-leak theory has gained mainstream credibility in recent months thanks to the work of media and nonprofit organizations filing FOIA requests, as well as the decentralized research conducted by DRASTIC internet sleuths.

An intelligence community review of the pandemic's origins ordered by President Joe Biden published a report last month that, while inconclusive, said both the natural origins and lab-leak theories were plausible.

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