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Washington Post issues correction on 2020 report on Tom Cotton, lab-leak theory

Washington Post issues correction on 2020 report on Tom Cotton, lab-leak theory
© Greg Nash

The Washington Post has issued a correction on its 2020 report on Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOvernight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military Media continues to lionize Anthony Fauci, despite his damning emails MORE (R-Ark.) and the lab-leak theory he had discussed in the media.

The newspaper revised a February 2020 story with the original headline "Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked" as top public health experts have begun taking a more serious look at the origins of the coronavirus. 

"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," reads the Post's correction.

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The new headline of the story reads "Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus fringe theory that scientists have disputed."

Cotton, along with former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE, has repeated the theory that COVID-19 came from a lab leak in Wuhan, China, in 2019. 

“We don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that,” Cotton was quoted as saying on Fox News in the Post's article from February 2020. “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.”

That theory has gained renewed attention in recent weeks, with President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE announcing a ramped-up effort to confirm the origins of the virus. 

Meanwhile, many scientists who had previously downplayed the theory are now saying it should be investigated further.

There has not been definitive proof the virus leaked from a lab. But scientists also have not found definitive evidence showing the virus started in animals before naturally infecting humans.

Facebook announced on Wednesday that it had lifted its ban on content that speculated on the origin of the COVID-19 virus. 

The Hill has reached out to The Washington Post and Cotton's office for further comment.