Many scientists have been dismayed by their actions. “It is very important to talk about the scientific journals — I think they are partially responsible for the cover-up,” said Virginie Courtier-Orgogozo, a leading French evolutionary biologist and key member of the Paris Group of scientists challenging the established view on these issues. The rejection of the lab leak hypothesis, she argues, in many places was not due to Trump’s intervention but the result of “respectable scientific journals not accepting to discuss the matter”.
The Paris Group, for instance, submitted a letter to The Lancet in early January signed by 14 experts from around the world calling for an open debate, arguing that “the natural origin is not supported by conclusive arguments and that a lab origin cannot be formally discarded”. This does not seem contentious. But it was rejected on the basis it was “not a priority for us”. When the authors queried this decision, it was reassessed and returned without peer review by editor-in-chief Richard Horton with a terse dismissal saying “we have agreed to uphold our original decision to let this go”. The authors ended up publishing their statement on a pre-print site.
Yet this is the same prestigious journal that published a now infamous statement early last year attacking “conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin“. Clearly, this was designed to stifle debate. It was signed by 27 experts but later turned out to have been covertly drafted by Peter Daszak, the British scientist with extensive ties to Wuhan Institute of Virology. To make matters worse, The Lancet then set up a commission on the origins — and incredibly, picked Daszak to chair its 12-person task force, joined by five others who signed that statement dismissing ideas the virus was not a natural occurrence.