Prominent scientists are demanding a full retraction of a paper published in March 2020 in the journal Nature Medicine, which downplayed the lab leak theory of COVID-19’s origin and was praised by Dr. Anthony Fauci. The paper, titled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2,” claimed that COVID-19 did not come from a lab and stated that a laboratory-based scenario was not plausible. However, private doubts from the authors and leaked emails revealed that they suspected a lab leak was possible and even “likely.”
In response to the paper’s misleading claims, 47 scientists and STEM professionals signed an open letter calling for Nature Medicine to retract the paper. They accused it of being “scientific fraud” and falsely claiming that science showed COVID-19 did not have a lab origin. One of the signers, Richard H. Ebright, a professor at Rutgers University, described the paper as the product of scientific misconduct.
Neil Harrison, a professor at Columbia University, also signed the letter, stating that there was no evidence supporting the conclusions of a natural origin or the pandemic starting at a seafood market. Other respected researchers and academics from institutions like Harvard, MIT, Oxford, and the University of California, Irvine, also joined the call for retraction.
The leaked emails between Fauci and the paper’s authors raised concerns about the deliberate downplaying of the lab leak theory due to fears of backlash from China. Fauci even suggested potentially notifying the FBI about the lab leak possibility. The scientists struggled to find conclusive evidence for a natural evolution explanation, leading to internal debates about publishing the paper.
Despite the doubts and concerns, Fauci praised the paper and cited it as evidence that the virus jumped from animals to humans during a White House press briefing. This revelation, along with the knowledge of a pending $8.9 million NIAID grant awaiting final approval for one of the authors, Kristian Andersen, adds to the controversy surrounding the paper.
The release of unredacted emails earlier this year, following Freedom Of Information Act requests from journalists, exposed the behind-the-scenes discussions and suspicions about COVID-19’s origin. The demand for retraction by these scientists reflects the growing skepticism surrounding the initial handling of the lab leak theory and the need for transparency in scientific research.