Speed Reads

'threatened and ostracized'

Former CDC director says he received death threats from fellow scientists for supporting lab leak theory

Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says he received death threats after backing the COVID-19 lab leak theory — including from other scientists.

Redfield told Vanity Fair that these death threats came in after he surprisingly told CNN in March that he believes COVID-19 likely "escaped" from a lab in Wuhan, something he noted at the time was his own personal opinion. 

"I was threatened and ostracized because I proposed another hypothesis," Redfield said. "I expected it from politicians. I didn't expect it from science."

Vanity Fair reports that "death threats flooded his inbox" after the CNN interview aired, and "the vitriol came not just from strangers who thought he was being racially insensitive but also from prominent scientists, some of whom used to be his friends." The report cited one email as saying that Redfield should "wither and die." 

The rest of Vanity Fair's report discusses how until fairly recently, the theory that COVID-19 could have leaked from a Wuhan lab was "treated not simply as unlikely or even inaccurate but as morally out-of-bounds," and the report also says that a former State Department official wrote in a memo that staff "warned" leaders not to "pursue an investigation into the origin of COVID-19" because it would "open a can of worms."

Redfield previously noted in his CNN interview that he didn't believe that COVID-19 was intentionally released. He added that "other people don't believe" that the coronavirus originated in a lab, but "science will eventually figure it out." Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC on Friday that he still feels "that it is more likely" that the origins of COVID-19 involved a "natural jumping of species from an animal reservoir to a human," but "since we don't know that for sure, you've got to keep an open mind."