The doctor who warned the world repeatedly that a pandemic was coming orchestrated a behind-the-scenes ‘bullying’ campaign to ensure blame for Covid-19 was directed well away from a Chinese lab with which he had worked closely.
Dr. Peter Daszak persuaded more than two dozen other scientists to sign off on a letter he had written to a highly respected medical journal that was seen as so influential it cowed most experts into refusing even to consider that the virus could have been man-made and escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
And it is only now, nearly 16 months after that letter was published in the British journal The Lancet, that that theory is being looked at seriously.
‘The Lancet letter was scientific propaganda and a form of thuggery and intimidation,’ former high-level Clinton administration staffer Jamie Metzl – who now sits on the World Health Organization’s advisory committee on human genome editing – told DailyMail.com.
‘By labeling anyone with different views a conspiracy theorist, the Lancet letter was the worst form of bullying in full contravention of the scientific method.’
Peter Daszak, 55, is one of the world’s leading experts on disease ecology and warned repeatedly that a pandemic was coming. His New York-based non-profit funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and he worked hand in hand with its director
Experts say Daszak has conflicts of interest that ‘unequivocally disqualify him from being part of an investigation of the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. He persuaded more than two dozen other scientists to sign off on a letter he had written to a highly respected medical journal that was seen as so influential it cowed most experts into refusing even to consider that the virus could have been man-made and escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is about 20 miles from the Huanan Seafood Market where the first coronavirus cases are reported to have occurred
Daszak, 55, runs the non-profit EcoHealth Alliance that has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Wuhan lab. He has worked closely with the lab’s so-called ‘bat woman,’ Shi Zhengli, as they have investigated coronaviruses. Shi, 57, is a trailblazer who proved that horseshoe bats were behind a SARS virus that killed nearly 800 people in 2002 and has collected thousands of samples from bat caves.
Daszak was one of 26 experts – including four others who worked for EcoHealth – who signed the letter published on February 19, 2020. It has only now been discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request that he told his fellow signatories in an email that the letter would not be sent under the EcoHealth logo ‘and will not be identifiable as coming from any one organization of person.’
The emails show he even considered not signing the letter himself, although in the end he did.
The idea, he said was for it to be coming from ‘a community supporting our colleagues.’
The letter praised the Chinese ‘who continue to save lives and protect global health during the challenge of the Covid-19 outbreak.’
And it went on to add: ‘We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin.
‘Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors and prejudices that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against the virus.’
It ended with the words: ‘We declare no competing interests.’
The letter proved so influential that it virtually ended debate on the origin of Covid for more than a year. Anyone who suggested it could have been man-made was shot down amid accusations of anti-Chinese xenophobia.
While China has tried to insist the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have begun to contemplate the possibility it escaped from the WIV – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread
Neither Daszak nor EcoHealth responded to a DailyMail.com request for comment. Ironically the organization’s offices on New York’s Eighth Avenue are currently closed due to coronavirus, a message on its answering service says.
After the letter was published, any idea that Covid may have been lab-engineered -deliberately or not – were dismissed. Then-President Donald Trump arguably made matters worse by claiming he had seen classified documents that showed the virus came from the Wuhan lab. Then he told reporters he couldn’t tell them what those documents were. That made all of government shy away from suggesting the virus started in a lab.
Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control told Vanity Fair he received death threats after floating the theory that the virus could have been man-made. ‘I was threatened and ostracized because I proposed another hypothesis,’ he said. ‘I expected it from politicians. I didn’t expect it from science.’
Daszak is one of the world’s leading experts on disease ecology. He warned repeatedly that a pandemic was coming. He said it on CBS’s 60 Minutes in 2003. He reiterated it at a World Health Organization meeting in 2018. And he said it once more in a New York Times op-ed as the tentacles of Covid-19 were first spreading around the world in February last year.
He termed his virus ‘Disease X’ and said it would spread silently and quickly and be confused with other illnesses. It would ravage multiple countries, he said, and ‘thwart containment.’
All that proved correct, but still he is now under fire for clinging to the view that Covid-19 could not have originated in the Wuhan lab.
Daszak hails from Manchester, England, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of Bangor in Wales and a Ph.D. in parasitic infectious diseases from the University of East London. He took over the Wildlife Trust, a conservation charity founded by British author Gerald Durrell, renamed it and changed its focus to ‘research on the intricate relationships between wildlife, ecosystems and human health.’
He and his wife Janet Cottingham moved to Atlanta around 1998 where he worked with the National Center for Infectious Diseases. He later moved on to New York and has worked on committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of the Interior. He is now an American citizen.
‘Daszak was the contractor who funded the laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that potentially was the source of the virus,’ one expert says
Under his leadership, the government has made millions of dollars in grants to EcoHealth, some of which he passed on legally to the Wuhan Institute of Virology so they could work together on the study of coronaviruses.
Despite his close connections to the lab, Daszak was picked by the World Health organization to be part of its 13-member team that was tasked with finding the cause of the pandemic which began in Wuhan, a city of some 11 million people in Central China.
That, said Metzl, was a ‘massive and outrageous conflict of interest.’
‘As a funder of research at the WIV, Peter should have had absolutely no role as a member of the independent expert committee,’ he said.
Metzl called the WHO report ‘fatally flawed. ‘They set out to prove one hypothesis, not fairly examine all of them,’ he tweeted.
Others agree. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist and bio-security expert at Rutgers University, said Daszak’s conflicts ‘unequivocally disqualify him from being part of an investigation of the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.’
Ebright, a frequent critic of Daszak, described the WHO mission as a charade. ‘Its members were willing — and in at least one case enthusiastic — participants in disinformation,’ he said.
‘The pre-negotiated terms of reference for the WHO study did not even acknowledge the possibility of a laboratory origin of the virus.’
Metzl — who believes that the pandemic is likely to have started in a lab although he still has an open mind — said part of the problem was that the World Health Assembly, which authorized the WHO team, limited the investigation to its natural ‘zoonotic’ origin. But he said Daszak still should not have been on the panel.
Daszak wasn’t even proposed by the Trump administration for the WHO team. It put forward three other names, all of whom were rejected. At the time of his appointment, Daszak vowed that he would investigate ‘with an open mind’ and ‘not be bound by preconceived ideas,’ according to the Wall Street Journal.
Despite his close connections to the lab, Daszak was picked by the WHO to be part of its 13-member team that was tasked with finding the cause of the pandemic that began in Wuhan
He was also chosen to chair a second inquiry funded by The Lancet. Metzl told DailyMail.com he believes the journal’s editor should resign over that decision.
Taxpayer-funded grants dollars that were made to EcoHealth have eventually gone to the Wuhan lab as the two organizations worked hand in hand on research.
‘Daszak was the contractor who funded the laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that potentially was the source of the virus with subcontracts from $200 million from the US Department of State and $7 million from the US National Institutes of Health and he was a collaborator and co-author on research projects at the laboratory,’ said Ebright.
So if it were proven that the virus is man-made and leaked from the Wuhan lab, EcoHealth could itself be directly implicated in the outbreak.
Daszak has led the way in dismissing the idea that the coronavirus leaked from the Wuhan lab, calling it a ‘conspiracy theory.’ During his trip to China, he praised lab bosses for not responding to claims that Covid was man-made. ‘The reason is…they don’t want to give oxygen to these conspiracies. They’re all unfounded,’ he said.
He admitted that the group had not asked Shi for access to the Wuhan lab’s database of 22,000 virus samples, which had been taken down due to hacking concerns, Vanity Fair reported. Daszak described that decision as ‘absolutely reasonable.’
‘We did not ask to see the data. As you know, a lot of this work has been conducted with EcoHealth Alliance. We basically know what is in those databases.’
An internal government memo slammed the final WHO report for taking only a ‘cursory’ look at the lab-leak theory, the magazine said.
Fauci was interview Thursday morning on CNN and said he believed that there could have been a lab leak
Workers wearing protective suit walk next to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan in March, 2020
But now, as Daszak’s links to the Wuhan lab become clearer, more questions are being asked about his influence over the WHO team that went to China in January and stayed for four weeks searching for answers.
The team was met with resistance in China. Authorities there made them quarantine for two weeks in Wuhan and barred two members completely after they tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.
But critics say the WHO researchers were too cozy with Chinese authorities, who are desperate not to shoulder the blame for a worldwide death toll now approaching 3.6 million. In particular, they claim its members may have been influenced by a tour they took round a ‘propaganda museum’ which described Wuhan’s fight against the virus and the leading role taken by President Xi Jinping.
In recent weeks, the lab-escape theory has gained ground. Already British intelligence officials, who are helping the U.S. search for the cause of the pandemic that has cost nearly 600,000 American lives, are said to be leaning towards the man-made scenario.
On Friday, DailyMail.com exclusively revealed that two leading European scientists had found ‘unique fingerprints’ in Covid samples that could only have come from lab manipulation.
British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Birger Sørensen, wrote that they have had ‘prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China’ for a year — but were ignored by academics and major journals.
And just last week President Joe Biden ordered another look at the theory as part of a wide-ranging intelligence investigation into the pandemic’s origins. He felt it so urgent that he put a 90-day deadline for a conclusion.
Emails from Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical advisor, show that leading virus experts warned Covid-19 could be man-made even as he downplayed the possibility. Fauci says those emails, obtained by Buzzfeed, have been taken out of context.
One of them was from Daszak, who thanked Fauci for pushing back on the man-made theory. ‘I just wanted to say a personal thank you on behalf of our staff and collaborators, for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Daszak wrote in April 2020.
Even WHO’s Ethiopian director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the report was not extensive enough and more work needed to be done to discover the cause of Covid.
‘As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table,’ he said. ‘This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end.’