BuzzFeed News tried to debunk a recent theory that the coronavirus was leaked from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan, China. Instead of debunking it, BuzzFeed News demonstrated its willingness to insulate China from criticism.
The website headlined their rebuttal to the alleged conspiracy theory, “Scientists Haven’t Found Proof The Coronavirus Escaped From A Lab In Wuhan. Trump Supporters Are Spreading The Rumor Anyway.” Much of the article directed criticism at Fox News and “other right-wing media” for perpetuating the theory that the coronavirus was deliberately or mistakenly leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China. It named the Zero Hedge website and a QAnon YouTube personality as fearmongers, which are both fringe movements, but BuzzFeed News failed to directly implicate conservatives in promoting the theory.
Although there is no proof of the virus’s origins coming from a Chinese laboratory, BuzzFeed News was dishonest for dismissing the plausible theory. The website quoted multiple academics to shore up its assertion that it is a conspiracy theory. But without international observers being able to visit the laboratory in question, in addition to the Chinese government’s refusal to track the origin of the virus, BuzzFeed News cannot concretely disprove the theory. BuzzFeed News also avoided laying the blame for the theory’s proliferation on the Chinese government’s lack of transparency.
BuzzFeed News buried its criticism of the Chinese government’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak until the last part of the article. The website acknowledged that the Chinese government “heavily censored early information” and was “reticent to share data internationally.” But the website did not go into detail of how the Chinese government systematically misled the world on the coronavirus outbreak, such as claiming it was not transmissible from human-to-human. Neither did BuzzFeed News mention the Chinese government’s propaganda campaign, which alleged that the United States military spread the virus in China.