Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
believes the United States
made a mistake in dismissing the idea that COVID-19
was the result of a laboratory, stating that "some of the evidence was right in front of our faces."
“There was too much of an early tendency to dismiss the possibility of a laboratory leak, and I think the press bears
some responsibility for that,” she said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
Rice, who served as national security
adviser during the 2003 SARS outbreak, said one early red flag was that US officials had previously called safety practices at a lab studying coronaviruses in bats in Wuhan, China
“There was too much of a tendency early on to dismiss this possibility of a laboratory leak,” former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice says of COVID-19’s Chinese origins. “And, in fact, some of the evidence was right in front of our faces.” pic.twitter.com/qJOU0mA1fI — Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) June 6, 2021
State Department diplomats inspected the lab in 2018, and concerns were raised about the “risk of a new SARS-like pandemic
” emerging due to inadequate safety measures at the lab, according to cables obtained by a Washington
Rice also stated that in November 2019, prior to China reporting the first COVID-19 cases, the country had patients with "suspicious symptoms."
While Rice may not be the best messenger to criticize flawed intelligence assessments, many press accounts and some government officials downplayed the possibility that COVID-19 was the result of a lab leak; however, many are now taking the theory more seriously. According to the State Department, researchers at China's Wuhan Institute of Virology
became ill "with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 an
“Perhaps that was the right time to start asking tough questions,” Rice speculated.
Condoleeza Rice on Chinese cooperation with COVID investigation
: “Given what we experienced with SARS and avian flu in the early 2000s, I don't think it was worth trusting that the Chinese were being transparent about what was going on there.” pic.twitter.com/iUm5EJxXnw — Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) June 6, 2021
Rice also expressed concern about the World Health Organization
's close collaboration with China during their joint investigation into the spread of the virus. In March, the WHO released the findings of their joint study on the virus's origins, which was conducted with China. The report was criticized by 13 countries, including the United States.
“Perhaps we didn’t say enough about the WHO going in and allowing the Chinese to control the territory while they tried to investigate,” she admitted.
Rice advocated for the United States to be more aggressive in dealing with China in the future.
“Given what we experienced with SARS and, by the way, avian flu in the early 2000s,” she said, “I don’t think it was worth trusting that the Chinese were being transparent about what was going on there.” “I think we made a mistake earlier on, and many people
, many officials dismissed this possibility.”
Rice's comments on the virus's origins come after President Joe Biden
announced late last month that he is urging the US intelligence community to "redouble its efforts" in investigating the novel coronavirus's origins, and that he expects a report on the virus's origins within 90 days.
Conservative commentators and politicians
began to suggest that the emergence of COVID-19 was not natural as early as January 2020, and after the outbreak was declared a pandemic that March, Trump
— who enjoys bolstering conspiracy
theories — began repeating such chatter.
The same day that Trump said at a press conference in April
2020 that he had personally seen evidence that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan, U.S. intelligence agencies issued a statement stating that “the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.”
Scientists and researchers also challenged the lab leak theory, claiming that the molecular structure of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, rules out the possibility that it was created in a lab.