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Washington Post Retroactively Edits 15-Month-Old Piece That Bashed Tom Cotton on Wuhan Lab Leak Theory

Washington Post Retroactively Edits 15-Month-Old Piece That Bashed Tom Cotton on Wuhan Lab Leak Theory

Now that the media is suddenly treating the Wuhan lab leak theory as plausible, news outlets like the WaPo have taken to doing edits on their earlier articles to make themselves sound less skeptical than they originally did.

In February 2020, the Washington Post published a hit piece ridiculing Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) when he suggested the Wuhan coronavirus might have originated from a virology lab in Wuhan, China.

At the time, the headline on the piece read, “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked.” The paper noted that Cotton said during a Fox Business interview that “we don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that.” However, they nevertheless treated him as though he had definitively declared the virus’ origins, alleging he was “fanning the embers of a conspiracy theory that has been repeatedly debunked by experts.”

They quoted several so-called “experts” who claimed in so many words that Cotton was spouting nonsense:

“There’s absolutely nothing in the genome sequence of this virus that indicates the virus was engineered,” said Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University. “The possibility this was a deliberately released bioweapon can be firmly excluded.”


Vipin Narang, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it is “highly unlikely” the general population was exposed to a virus through an accident at a lab.

“We don’t have any evidence for that,” said Narang, a political science professor with a background in chemical engineering.

“It’s a skip in logic to say it’s a bioweapon that the Chinese developed and intentionally deployed, or even unintentionally deployed,” Narang said.

The newspaper also dutifully quoted Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai’s response to Cotton’s comments:

“But it’s very harmful, it’s very dangerous, to stir up suspicion, rumors, and spread them among the people. For one thing, this will create panic. Another thing is that it will fan up racial discrimination, xenophobia, all these things that will really harm our joint efforts to combat the virus.”

Gosh, all of that sounds really familiar, doesn’t it?

But here we are 15 months later. Now that Dr. Fauci and the media are suddenly treating the Wuhan lab leak theory seriously, some news outlets have taken to doing edits on their earlier articles to make themselves sound less skeptical than they initially did.

For example, the Washington Post has a new headline for its updated piece. The latest headline is on the right below:

Also, though the article has the same Getty Images picture used in the original, its caption has changed. The original caption read, “Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Sunday repeated a debunked conspiracy theory about coronavirus and Chinese bioresearch.” Now it reads, “Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Sunday repeated a theory about coronavirus and Chinese bioresearch that scientists have questioned.”

Removed from the updated article were any references to the words “conspiracy theory” and “debunked,” as they pointed out at the top of the piece:

I don’t know what’s more outrageous here. The fact that WaPo edited a piece well after the fact to try and make themselves look better or that in both the original and the updated one they bashed Cotton for merely suggesting questions be asked?

I should note that the Washington Post is not the only news outlet caught making changes to their original reporting on the lab leak theory. Liberal outlet was seen a couple of weeks ago editing some of their prior reporting, too:

They, too, put editors notes at the top of their piece:

I didn’t take journalism classes in college, but one doesn’t have to be a journalism major to understand that retroactively editing an article is not how it works:

Between what the Washington Post did here and what the USA Today did in stealth-editing two recent opinion pieces without first notifying readers about it (one without the author’s permission and the other to try and make a Democrat look good), I’d say that neither of them is even fit to line birdcages at this point.

This is not just a bad look. It adds just another layer of fail to an industry that bizarrely mocked questions asked of the “experts” last year and deliberately suppressed debate on a public health crisis primarily because they didn’t like that it was Republicans asking the questions.

The “Orange Man Bad” media reporting strategy the press operated on for four years – a technique where anything alleged by Trump and other prominent Republicans who supported Trump was automatically dismissed as a lie or a baseless conspiracy theory – has come back to bite journalists spectacularly. So look for what little faith some have in the media to further plummet due to their actions, and deservedly so.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —


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Comanche Voter | June 2, 2021 at 1:16 pm

Well that was then and this is now. Under Bezos the Washington Post has increased its staff of those Soviet refugees who had a career eliminating people from historical photos. If the photo or the editorial has been altered to eliminate embarassing wrong think, why then it never happened.

WAPO is just a section within the Ministry of Truth. Paging Winston Smith.

    OwenKellogg-Engineer in reply to alaskabob. | June 2, 2021 at 5:01 pm

    Who would have thought we would have seen the Memory Hole in action in our lifetimes in our country.

MinTruth is alive and well. The government doesn’t even have to run it since the media crawled into the shackles on their own and appear quite comfortable with the position.

I don’t know who is actually finding these stealth edits and what technology they’re using, and I don’t want to know. But they’re great men and women and, if this government is worth saving, great patriots.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to artichoke. | June 2, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    Perhaps they are comparing to snapshots? In fact, software could be written to make that comparison automatically. That would be interesting.

Of course they’ll re-write history to make themselves look like geniuses, doesn’t everyone? (/sarc)

‘This is not the media bias you are looking for’…..

And eventually it will be admitted that the Chinese Virus is indeed a bio-weapon, and there will be more stealth editing but never an apology or a mea culpa for carrying water for our enemies.
And that includes certain regulars of this here blog.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to Exiliado. | June 2, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    I have thought for sometime that it was intentionally created, and that the was a fairly high probably that it was a weapon. There has been a great deal of circumstantial evidence, too much to not be suspicious.

      henrybowman in reply to JusticeDelivered. | June 2, 2021 at 8:33 pm

      I keep pointing out that “gain of function” is a leftist neologism for “weaponization.” Now, why would anyone want to indulge in “gain of function” research to make a virus more dangerous to humans? “Because it’s there” doesn’t really fly like it might in other situations, and there aren’t many other excuses not immediately discardable.

Ah, the digital age . . . .easier too erase then to go to thousands of public and university libraries to remove the printed newspaper editions and microfiche.

    bullhubbard in reply to alohahola. | June 3, 2021 at 9:49 am

    To me, this is the crux of the problem, beyond the usual lies oozing out of official quarters told to save face, beyond even the problem of a virus made in a lab, either for researching or creating biological weapons, that paralyzed the globe for two years. One becomes used to mealy-mouthed lying politicians like Fauci and horrible disasters on the grand scale like the never-ending parade of state-sponsored atrocities in China or anywhere else. Complaining about such matters eventually becomes sort of like bitching about the weather.

    I understand The Washington Post still publishes paper editions of its propaganda, so it is a fairly simple matter to keep track of lies written in back issues. A totally digital edition would make undetected retroactive lying (editing) quite easy, and we would need to rely completely on conscientious citizens like those who went on Twatter to point out the Post’s scrubbing of previously nasty leftist propaganda regarding the Wuhan virus.

    And why does the Post lie so blatantly and brazenly change their previous lies or half-truths or defamation? In this case, as in so many others, their nemesis Trump dared to make a political point by speculating that the virus is a Chinese lab creature. Can’t have anything Trump utters go by without some sort of mockery or condemnation, and anyone who repeats anything the Evil Orange One says is a right-wing nut or a “conspiracy theorist.”

    In general, any opinions or hypotheses on anything that contradicts the Post’s political agenda is a target for slander, libel, half-truths and defamation. Hiding behind the First Amendment, these hacks believe they are protected.

    But their desperate hubris is now transparent and the Post has no more credibility than CNN.

    This from a rag that was once highly regarded for its mythological commitment to truth and accuracy.

    The jig is up.

2smartforlibs | June 2, 2021 at 2:48 pm

Propagandists, not journalists have to rewrite. An old paperman told me you print the lie above the fold on the front page and the lie on page 8 under the obits where no one will see it.

Dusty Pitts | June 2, 2021 at 3:21 pm

Oceania has always never been at war with Eastasia.

The virus didn’t leak from the Wuhan lab. It was spread just like the virus in the movie 12 Monkeys.

Now we know. Winston Smith works for WaPo.

I am actually now embarrassed for the Wash Post.

If there are any true journalists left there – they have just lost the last ounce of integrity they may have has left.

If iy were me. I’d have resigned long ago. It’s not a newspaper anymore.

henrybowman | June 2, 2021 at 8:29 pm

We are now well into Memory Hole times here. We are complacent about it because freedom and truth activists always seem to be able to produce the original copies of news articles and corporate websites that underwent the Memory Hole treatment. (Not that we have any idea how many of those we never did detect, either because nobody cared or because the original material was not preserved.)

We are also complacent because we “know” we ourselves can do some of that research using the Internet Wayback Machine ( But the Wayback is not independent and not immortal. They do accept public donations, but they also accept funding from foundations, many of them leftist. For example, the “Democracy Fund” is on the list of donors — the same fund that is now pressuring UNC to tenure Nikole Hannah-Jones, and issuing press releases insisting that “Majority of Americans Have Confidence in the Integrity and Results of Elections.”

Wayback also receives federal funds: from the FCC, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation, all of which either explicitly or implicitly come with political strings attached. It doesn’t matter how much money “citizens like you” can donate to their cause, you will never outrank “citizens like Uncle Sam and the Andrew Mellon Foundation.” And someday this little “chimney shelf” inside the Memory Hole will be chiseled smooth.

Formulaically, this message requires a closing paragraph suggesting something we could do to solve this problem. I wish I had a suggestion to put here.

    bullhubbard in reply to henrybowman. | June 3, 2021 at 9:59 am

    Solutions? Maybe only read those news sources that still publish paper editions, as the Post still does. Unfortunately, very few people actually read paper editions of news anymore, and the total digitization of all news will make deceptive practices like the Post’s the rule rather than the exception.

    We really need trustworthy archives of digital news, and there are other archive services besides, aren’t there?