PolitiFact, the purported "fact-checking" website known for making blatantly partisan and false claims against Republicans and conservatives, has removed a fact-check that accused Fox News host Tucker Carlson of promoting a "ridiculous" conspiracy theory about the origins of COVID-19.
A September 15, 2020, article written for PolitiFact by Daniel Funke asserted that Carlson, who hosts the most-watched program on cable network television, "aired a conspiracy theory that has been debunked since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic." The so-called conspiracy theory was that the SARS-CoV-2 virus does not occur in nature and was created in a virology lab, a hypothesis that is now gaining mainstream credibility with scientists and researchers who want to investigate the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, PolitiFact archived the fact-check and added the following editor's note:
When this fact-check was first published in September 2020, PolitiFact's sources included researchers who asserted the SARS-CoV-2 virus could not have been manipulated. That assertion is now more widely disputed. For that reason, we are removing this fact-check from our database pending a more thorough review. Currently, we consider the claim to be unsupported by evidence and in dispute. The original fact-check in its entirety is preserved below for transparency and archival purposes. Read our May 2021 report for more on the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.
PolitiFact's original fact-check addressed claims made on Carlson's program by Dr. Li-Meng Yan, a whistleblower from Hong Kong who said the virus that causes COVID-19 was manufactured in a lab and the Chinese government released the virus intentionally.
"The consensus of the scientific community and international public health organizations is that the coronavirus emerged from bats and later jumped to humans," PolitiFact stated, disputing Yan's claims.
"Scientists worldwide have publicly shared the genetic makeup of the coronavirus thousands of times. If the virus had been altered, there would be evidence in its genome data," the fact-checker asserted. "But there isn't. In March, several microbiology, infectious disease and evolutionary biology experts wrote in Nature — a respected scientific journal — that the genetic makeup of the coronavirus does not indicate it was altered."
The fact-check goes on to cite opinions from the World Health Organization, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said evidence suggested the virus was not man-made.
"The genetic structure of the novel coronavirus, which has been shared by thousands of scientists worldwide, rules out the possibility that it was manipulated in a lab. Public health authorities have repeatedly said the virus was not created in a lab. Scientists believe the coronavirus originated in bats before jumping to humans. Experts have publicly rebuked Yan's paper, and it's unclear whether it was peer reviewed," PolitiFact concluded.
"The claim is inaccurate and ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire!"
Several high-profile scientists do not believe the claim is "ridiculous." In a letter published on May 14 in Science, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a group of prominent epidemiologists and biologists called for more investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable," the scientists wrote. "Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks."
The letter criticized a joint study conducted by China and the World Health Organization that investigated the origins of COVID-19.
"Although there were no findings in clear support of either a natural spillover or a lab accident, the team assessed a zoonotic spillover from an intermediate host as "likely to very likely," and a laboratory incident as "extremely unlikely," the scientists pointed out. "Furthermore, the two theories were not given balanced consideration. Only 4 of the 313 pages of the report and its annexes addressed the possibility of a laboratory accident."
TheBlaze reached out to FOX News Media seeking comment from a spokesperson for "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on PolitiFact's retraction.