A Washington Post columnist blasted comedian Jon Stewart, a well-known liberal, for declaring that COVID-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan, China.
Stewart, the former host of “The Daily Show,” went on a five-minute rant Monday night in an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show.”
“Science has, in many ways, helped ease the suffering of this pandemic … which was more than likely caused by science,” he said to laughter and applause.
But Colbert interrupted, saying he does not support the lab-leak theory and asking Stewart, “Do you mean perhaps there’s a chance that this was created in a lab? If there’s evidence, I’d love to hear it.”
“A chance? Oh my God!” Stewart yelled. “There’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China, what do we do? Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab.”
“The disease is the same name as the lab! That’s just a little too weird, don’t you think?” he said. (According to the Chinese, though, the lab is called the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but it reportedly has long studied coronaviruses.)
Stewart’s comments prompted columnist Paul Waldman to write a piece headlined, “Jon Stewart’s rant is a reminder: Don’t rely on celebrities for COVID-19 theories.”
“It seems like a long time ago now, but Jon Stewart used to be an immensely important figure sitting at the place where politics and pop culture meet,” Waldman wrote. “But these days, he’s retired and only emerges from time to time, and because he always delighted more in skewering Republicans, it was a bit shocking to see him go on an extended rant on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ about the coronavirus lab-leak theory.”
Waldman said the lab-leak theory “has become associated with conservatives trying to prove that former President Donald Trump was right about everything” and ripped Stewart for suggesting “it’s the only plausible explanation for the source of the virus.”
“This provides an important lesson about celebrities: You shouldn’t get your political opinions from them, or your scientific opinions either,” Waldman wrote. “I know what you’re going to say: ‘That’s just because this time a liberal celebrity is taking a position you don’t like!’ But it’s not that. On the lab leak question, I’m agnostic. Might that be where the virus came from? Sure. Or maybe not. But it matters only for the historical record and questions like ‘What should international virology lab safety standards require?’ As a political question, it’s pretty much irrelevant.”
Back in February 2020, just as the virus was beginning to sweep across the U.S., the Post dismissed the lab-leak theory, declaring in a headline, “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked.” But 15 months later, the paper issued a “correction.”
“Earlier versions of this story and its headline inaccurately characterized comments by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) regarding the origins of the coronavirus,” the correction reads at the top of the piece. “The term ‘debunked’ and The Post’s use of ‘conspiracy theory’ have been removed because, then as now, there was no determination about the origins of the virus.”
The Chinese insist the virus came from a “wet market,” likely from someone eating an infected bat, but plenty of experts have questioned that assertion.
At a Senate hearing last month, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) asked CDC Director Rachel Walensky how she thinks the pandemic began. “I don’t believe I’ve seen enough data, individual data for me to be able to comment on that,” Walensky said.
Kennedy then asked about the “possibilities” on where the virus originated. “Certainly the possibilities of, that most coronaviruses that we know of are of origin from, that have infected the population — SARS CoV-1, MERS — generally come from an animal origin.”
“Are there any other possibilities?” Kennedy asked.
“Certainly a lab-based origin is one possibility,” Walensky said.
Watch the Stewart rant below (skip to 2:10).
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