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.
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:
Democracy dies in stealth edits on 15-month-old headlines pic.twitter.com/FW6DoiqXSz
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) June 1, 2021
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:
Not a good look here, WaPo. Why not leave the original wording to your Feb. 2020 piece bashing Cotton up and write a new one giving him credit for being among the first to raise the possibility? pic.twitter.com/i7vJATYNYg
— Sister Toldjah 😁 (@sistertoldjah) June 2, 2021
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 Vox.com was seen a couple of weeks ago editing some of their prior reporting, too:
Some of the stealth edits that Vox made to its article debunking "conspiracy theories" that Covid-19 originated in a lab leak between its original publication in March 2020 and now. pic.twitter.com/RYxZ2B81mc
— Paul Graham (@paulg) May 24, 2021
They, too, put editors notes at the top of their piece:
— Sumit Middha (@bioinfosm) May 26, 2021
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:
YOU DON’T EDIT PIECES YOU ALREADY WROTE TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE YOU GOT IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. ffs…why does this need to be said out loud? Issue a retraction or leave it alone and take your medicine. Why should we be okay with them rewriting their own history? It’s gross.
— Kira (@RealKiraDavis) May 24, 2021
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. —DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.