USA Today changes 'did coronavirus begin in a laboratory?' fact check - iMediaEthics

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In March, USA Today published a fact check about whether coronavirus originated in a laboratory. But now, the newspaper has changed that fact check article and published a correction to edit its ruling.

The original March 21 fact check, “Fact check: Did the coronavirus originate in a Chinese laboratory?,” carried a ruling of false, stating, “The claim is that the coronavirus began in a Chinese laboratory. We rate this claim FALSE, based on our research. Overwhelming scientific evidence suggests the coronavirus originated in nature, and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.”

But a month later, on April 21, USA Today published a correction reading:

Corrections & Clarifications: This fact-check has been revised based on updated reporting since it was first published in March. The rating on the claim has been changed to Partly False to reflect that reporting.

Now, the USA Today fact check ruling says the claim is “partly false,” with the following explanation:

“We rate the claim that COVID-19 may have originated in a Chinese lab as PARTLY FALSE. Suggestions that the novel coronavirus was manmade or has been engineered for use in bioweapons in a high-security biomedical laboratory in Wuhan, China, are untrue, based on scientific research since the virus began its global spread. Beyond that, however, investigations continue into where COVID-19 began, and no conclusions can be drawn, nor has evidence been presented, that definitively explains the pathogen’s origin. Circumstantial evidence suggests the virus could have escaped from the Wuhan lab due to a lapse in safety measures.”

iMediaEthics viewed the original article via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Other changes include the updated article added:

“On April 21, the World Health Organization noted at a briefing that available evidence indicates coronavirus originated in animals in China late last year and was not manipulated or produced in a laboratory as has been alleged. “It is probable, likely, that the virus is of animal origin,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said.”

The updated article also adds in that “one scenario…based on circumstantial evidence” suggeests the virus could have happened naturally but then “escaping the research facility,” but noted that Anthony Fauci, of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, dismissed the theory.

The article also has been updated to add in comments from two anonymous sources who are identified as “administration officials with knowledge of the investigation” saying they doubted “China’s account of how the virus originated and have taken seriously suggestions that it may hve resulted from a lab accident that the Chinese are covering up.”

iMediaEthics has written to USA Today to ask what prompted it to revisit the fact check.

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USA Today changes ‘did coronavirus begin in a laboratory?’ fact check

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