Science Magazine Publisher Apologizes for Dismissing Theory That COVID-19 Came From Lab

‘That was flippant, and I shouldn’t have done that,’ Holden Thorp said.
Science Magazine Publisher Apologizes for Dismissing Theory That COVID-19 Came From Lab
In an image from video, Holden Thorp, editor-in-chief of Science Journals, speaks at a congressional hearing in Washington, on April 16, 2024. (House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic via The Epoch Times)
Zachary Stieber
4/18/2024
Updated:
5/7/2024
0:00
The publisher of Science magazine and other journals, who is close to Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on April 16 that he should not have dismissed the theory that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese laboratory.
Holden Thorp, who holds a doctorate in chemistry, apologized for a 2023 Twitter post in which he wrote that supporters of the natural origin theory have “scientific evidence” on their side, while the only thing Republicans and the witnesses they called—including former U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, a virologist—have in favor of the lab leak theory is “a mediocre episode of Homeland.”

“I was not as careful expressing my personal opinions on my personal Twitter page as I should have. That does happen on social media from time to time. I’ve gotten off Twitter, and I highly recommend that because in addition to making my life better, I don’t have to take my blood pressure medicine anymore. So my doctor is very happy,” Mr. Thorp said during a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Mr. Thorp’s account on Twitter, now known as X, says he’s “no longer posting here” but is still active on Bluesky, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Threads.

“I apologize for that. That was flippant, and I shouldn’t have done that,” Mr. Thorp said of the post.

Mr. Thorp later, under questioning from Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), acknowledged that there is no certainty in the scientific and intelligence communities when it comes to where COVID-19 came from.

Some scientists still back the natural origin theory but others say the available evidence indicates that COVID-19 came from a lab in Wuhan, where the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in 2019.

U.S. intelligence agencies are also divided on the matter.

Dr. Ruiz said scientists should keep trying to figure out the origins of COVID-19 and generate research that will help government officials implement policies that will bolster the detection of virus transmission in high-risk places as well as lab safety.

He also accused Republicans of focusing on the lab leak theory to the exclusion of the possible natural origin theory.

“We’ve spent many hours looking at the nature theory as well as the lab leak theory to suggest that we haven’t is not true,” Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) responded.

Mr. Wenstrup’s panel, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, held the hearing to examine what it described as a “breakdown of scientific debate during COVID-19.”

Lawmakers cited how emails they’ve uncovered describe Dr. Fauci, the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as prompting one widely-cited paper that claimed to establish that COVID-19 did not come from a lab. Missives also show Dr. Fauci was shown drafts of the paper, but he was not credited in the study.
The paper, titled The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2, was published by Nature Medicine on March 17, 2020.

Magdalena Skipper, the editor-in-chief of Nature who holds a doctorate in genetics, declined to participate in Tuesday’s hearing. According to Nature, she had a scheduling conflict.

Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, also refused to take part in the hearing. The Lancet did not return a request for comment.

Dr. Wenstrup praised Mr. Thorp for showing up but questioned some of his statements, including a 2021 opinion piece in which he definitively stated that risky experiments proposed by the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance “were not conducted.”
While the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, one of the agencies to which EcoHealth Alliance submitted the proposal, declined to fund it, it remains unclear whether the work was done.

The proposal floated inserting a furin cleavage site into bat coronaviruses. COVID-19 has a furin cleavage site. Some scientists believe the proposed experiments could have led to COVID-19, while others say they could not have.

“I was going from what was reported in news stories that were around,” Mr. Thorps said. “That’s what opinion journalists do. We read news stories, and we write commentary based on those opinions. So at that time, I concluded that it was a proposal that wasn’t funded.”

He said he wasn’t aware at the time of the information that has since come to light, including EcoHealth Alliance president Peter Daszak’s private statement that the experiments, if funded, would be carried out at the Wuhan lab.

“That, I agree with you, is very important,” Mr. Thorp said. He added later: “Now, I think it’s also true that the viruses that they were talking about were not close enough to COVID, that those experiments themselves could have led to the pandemic. But it’s certainly true that they were discussing all of those things in that proposal.”

The editorial does not appear to have been updated since it was published.

Mr. Thorp works for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes journals such as Science.

Many Democrats on the panel said that Republicans were offering conspiracy theories about Dr. Fauci and others. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) claimed that Republicans “have failed to reveal a cover up of COVID-19 origin or any other wrongdoing” by Dr. Fauci or his former boss, Dr. Francis Collins.

Kristian Anderson, one of the authors of Proximal Origins, “said Dr. Fauci prompted this,” Dr. Wenstrup noted. He also highlighted emails released this week that showed Dr. David Morens, one of Dr. Fauci’s top aides, saying he was aware of a grant to EcoHealth Alliance that supported tests in Wuhan and was working to get the grant restored.

Republicans said transparency is key to restoring trust in public health, as surveys indicate trust has dropped after the pandemic started.

“If the government wants to earn the trust of Americans back, it can only be done through transparency and reform, to acknowledge what we did wrong—innocently or not—so that we can figure out a solution to do better going forward,” Dr. Wenstrup said. “The government will never earn the trust back from the Americans by deeming all information that doesn’t like as misinformation.”

Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news. Contact Zachary at [email protected]
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