The interview with Robert Redfield, who served as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under Donald Trump, was aired by CNN as part of a preview of an upcoming feature program called “COVID WAR: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out.”
In a one-on-one segment with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, Redfield offered the latest reiteration of the claim that the outbreak of COVID-19 in China in late 2019 started as a leak from a virology lab.
“Other people don’t believe that. That’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out,” he said of the theory, adding that he didn’t imply “intentionality” – i.e., that a Chinese lab released the pathogen on purpose.
He explained his position:
“It’s my opinion. But I am a virologist, I spent my time in virology. I do not believe this somehow came from a bat to a human… [and] became one of the most infectious viruses that we know in humanity for human-to-human transmission.”
He suggested researchers in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the novel virus was first identified, could be working on making it “grow better and better and better” before it accidentally infected a worker, a scenario that Redfield called “not unusual for respiratory pathogens”.
The accidental lab leak theory was strongly advocated by members of the Trump administration, most notably Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Trump’s White House accused China and the World Health Organization (WHO) of covering things up and leaving the world unprepared to deal with the pandemic.
Beijing dismissed the allegations and said Washington was simply trying to shift the blame for its disastrous COVID-19 response to China, which, on the contrary, “successfully kept the disease under control”.
A WHO fact-finding mission that went to Wuhan to gather new evidence about the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus called the lab-leak scenario “extremely unlikely” and said the jump from bats to humans had probably happened through an intermediary animal. A full report on the team’s findings is expected soon.
CNN staff seemed to be accepting Redfield’s words without reservations.
A panel discussion after the fragments of the interview were aired concurred that a CDC head “sees things and knows things that the rest of us don’t see”.
“He is talking to people on the ground, not just his counterparts in the China CDC. But we have investigators on the ground in various countries around the world, including China,” Gupta posited, adding that he was referring to “intelligence gathering”.
The news network is known for its reverence of the US intelligence community, including former members, some of whom found employment at CNN. The channel usually takes intelligence assessments and opinions on face value, never asking for underlying evidence – which ostensibly can never be revealed to protect “sources and methods”.
Extending the same blanket of blind trust to a former health official, who allegedly“muzzled” his own agency to conform to the wishes of the administration he served, is not as common in the US mainstream media.