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Tom Cotton once again makes media look foolish

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has once again made his critics – and there are many – look patently foolish after a bombshell report in the Wall Street Journal found that three workers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized for COVID-like symptoms in Nov. 2019, approximately one month before the first reported case in the region.  

You may recall that it was Cotton who was labeled a conspiracy theorist last year for suggesting that the virus did not originate in a Wuhan wet market, which is what the Chinese government claimed as the reason (echoed by its puppet in the form of the World Health Organization), but in a lab a few blocks away.

“We don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that,” Cotton said in an interview in Feb. 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.”

Major media were quick to pounce on Cotton’s suggestion not only by dismissing it but by calling him a conspiracy theorist.

“Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked,” read the Washington Post headline in its Politics section.

“Why Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories Flourish. And Why It Matters,” read the New York Times’s take.

“Cotton repeats coronavirus conspiracy theory, despite evidence,” according to MSNBC at the time.

“Sen. Tom Cotton Flogs Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory Dismissed by Actual Scientists,” snarked The Daily Beast.

After the Journal report this week that lab workers fell sick with symptoms consistent with COVID in Nov. 2019, the media’s tone remarkably changed.

“Timeline: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible,” reads the Washington Post’s headline in its fact-checking section.

“Talk of the Wuhan lab-leak theory seems to be everywhere now as the world searches for the origin of the pandemic,” the New York Times laughably writes.

And there are dozens more “here’s how it started, here’s how it’s going” tweets from other news organizations that branded Cotton – and Donald Trump, who made the same claim – a conspiracy theorist.

Now, does this report mean the pandemic responsible for more than 580,000 Americans deaths did originate in a lab? We still don’t know. And given that the Chinese aren’t remotely forthright and transparent, we may never be 100 percent sure.

But it is safe to say it’s no longer a fringe conspiracy theory. The timing is interesting as well, because, as we’ve seen time and time and time again, what were conspiracy theories during the 2020 presidential campaign when Trump was on the big stage are seen quite differently in 2021, with Joe Biden safely across the finish line and in the Oval Office.

2020: Hunter Biden’s laptop is Russian disinformation, many media outlets told us.

2021: Well, it turns out Hunter is under FBI investigation. Oh, and the laptop looks like it does belong to him after all.

2020: Russia paid the Taliban bounties to take out U.S. troops and Trump gave Putin a pass.

2021: Well, it turns out the intelligence sourcing on that was bad and it’s likely no such bounties existed.

2020: “Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus bill into law as companies and households brace for more economic pain,” — Washington Post.

2021: “Biden stimulus showers money on Americans, sharply cutting poverty in defining move of presidency,” — Washington Post

And this isn’t the first time Cotton has been shunned by major media only to ultimately be proven right.

In June 2020, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times advocating the deployment of the U.S. military to American cities to help control violent protests. Pretty prophetic considering what we witnessed during that horrific riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. For whatever reason, the piece garnered severe public backlash from other writers at the publication, with Pulitzer Prize-winning editor James Bennet ultimately being forced to resign from the publication as a result.  

Internal mob 1, veteran award-winning editor 0. 

In a related story, in an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken before Cotton’s opinion piece, 52 percent of Americans supported deploying the military to control violent protests, making it a worthy debate that half the country agreed with and half didn’t.

But in the end, the only poll that mattered at the Times belonged to activists in the newsroom posing as journalists. 

Cotton once made a valid argument that COVID-19 may have come from a Wuhan virology lab. He was placed in the same corner as Alex Jones. Ignore the conspiracy theorist, they cried.

Fourteen months later, there’s growing evidence that the senator may be proven right. Just don’t expect any apologies anytime soon. That’s not how it works anymore.  

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.

Tags coronavirus COVID-19 misinformation COVID-19 pandemic Donald Trump Fake News Fringe theory Joe Biden MSNBC The New York Times The Times The Washington Post Tom Cotton Wuhan lab

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