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Report: NYT told reporters not to probe COVID origins, perhaps to protect its Chinese business ties

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As the mysterious novel coronavirus was raging across the globe last year killing millions, the New York Times was busy suppressing efforts to probe the pathogen's origins, perhaps in an effort to protect its Chinese business ties, according to a new report from the Spectator.

Two anonymous Times employees told the magazine that the "newspaper of record" instructed reporters not to investigate the pathogen's origins in the early stages of the pandemic, calling suggestions that the pathogen escaped from a Chinese lab "dangerous," "conspira[cist]," and "racist."

Here's more from the Spectator:

'In early 2020,' a veteran Times employee tells me, 'I suggested to a senior editor at the paper that we investigate the origins of COVID-19. I was told it was dangerous to run a piece about the origins of the coronavirus. There was resistance to running anything that could suggest that [COVID-19 was manmade or had leaked accidentally from a lab].'

'It was considered a conspiracy theory,' confirms a second Times insider who was in a senior position on a different section at the time, and also proposed an investigation. 'It was untouchable everywhere. The fact that Trump embraced it, of course, also made it a no-go.'

'The idea was considered dangerous,' my first source agreed.

At the same time the paper reportedly quashed the probes, speculation was growing significantly around a theory that the novel coronavirus had leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a lab cleared to study dangerous pathogens near the virus's epicenter.

The lab leak theory, as it came to be known, was reported on by several conservative and alternative media organizations — including TheBlaze — as circumstantial evidence continued to surface. It was also espoused by then-President Donald Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

Left-wing media outlets, on the other hand, proceeded to parrot lines from the Chinese government and the World Health Organization declaring that the virus definitively originated from natural causes. Discussion of any alternative was not permitted.

While one source mentioned opposition to Trump as a potential reason for the Times' position, both suggested that the Times editors' primary motivation was not "domestic politics in an election year."

Instead, according to the Spectator, the paper may have been taking a hard line against origin probes in hopes of preserving its rewarding business ties to China:

In the years before COVID-19, revenue from China was an integral part of the Times's business model. The paper received millions of dollars from Chinese government-controlled outlets, especially China Daily, and published 'advertorials' pushing the Chinese government's line. The Times wasn't alone in doing this — though few outlets anywhere in the West went all-in, as the Times did in 2012, when it launched a Chinese-language edition and, soon after that, a luxury magazine.

In November 2019, it emerged that China Daily had failed to disclose to federal authorities millions of dollars in payments to US outlets including the Times and the Washington Post. In August 2020, the Times quietly scrubbed the China-funded advertorials from its website. Still, in October 2020, the Times ran an op-ed by Regina Ip, a member of Hong Kong's Executive Council, justifying the repression of anti-government protests in the Hong Kong SAR.

"The dissonance is astounding," one of the Times sources told the Spectator.

In response to the report, a Times spokesperson responded by saying, "Any accusation that the New York Times would refuse to investigate the origins of a pandemic is ridiculous."

"In 2020, The New York Times Company made the decision to stop accepting and hosting branded content ads from state media, which includes China Daily. We do not discuss revenue beyond what is our quarterly earnings reports," the spokesperson added.

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