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15 months later, WaPo finally corrects report calling COVID lab leak a 'debunked' 'conspiracy theory'

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HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

The Washington Post this week finally produced a major correction to a 15-month-old report that wrongly referred to the coronavirus lab leak theory as a "conspiracy theory" that had already been "debunked."

What are the details?

The report, published in February 2020, detailed remarks made by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) surmising that the coronavirus pandemic may have originated from a lab in Wuhan, China. It was originally headlined, "Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked."

Speaking with Fox News' Maria Bartiromo regarding the virus, Cotton had said, "We don't know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that. We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China's only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases."

"Now, we don't have evidence that this disease originated there," the lawmaker acknowledged. "But because of China's duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says, and China right now is not giving any evidence on that question at all."

Cotton's comments seemed altogether measured and reasonable. But not to the Post, which appeared more interested in keeping to Democratic talking points than engaging the matter with any sort of intellectual curiosity.

But now that the theory has surged back onto the scene and gained admissions of plausibility from President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Post saw fit to change its take, altering the headline to say: "Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus fringe theory that scientists have disputed."

The outlet also issued a correction on the article, stating: "Earlier versions of this story and its headline inaccurately characterized comments by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) regarding the origins of the coronavirus. The term 'debunked' and The Post's use of 'conspiracy theory' have been removed because, then as now, there was no determination about the origins of the virus."

What else?

But even with its correction, the Post massively downplayed the prominence of the lab leak theory — which is now, according to the president, one of two theories considered "likely" by the U.S. intelligence community.

Yet still the Post called it a "fringe" theory and stressed that "scientists have disputed" it.

The lab leak theory has been espoused for more than a year by conservative and alternative media organizations — including this one — based on mounting circumstantial evidence. Yet since the start of the pandemic, it has been readily dismissed by Democratic politicians and their media counterparts.

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