I noted here yesterday that the Wall Street Journal’s report on the Biden administration’s efforts to shape the next phase of the World Health Organization investigation into COVID’s origins shows that officials aren’t giving the possibility of a lab-release origin the backing that it deserves.
There is another interesting aspect to the story: Although the administration is pushing for the WHO to demand more data from Beijing, it’s not demanding that U.S. inspectors be let into China, as President Biden promised he’d do on the campaign trail.
During a Democratic primary debate in February 2020, then-candidate Biden pledged to push Beijing to accept U.S. investigators, as Chinese officials grappled with intensifying COVID spread and faced allegations that the Chinese Communist Party was covering up crucial information about the disease:
I would be on the phone with China and making it clear, we are going to need to be in your country; you have to be open; you have to be clear; we have to know what’s going on; we have to be there with you, and insist on it and insist, insist, insist.
Then, during a CNN town hall the following day, Biden doubled down on that pledge, hitting President Trump for not pushing hard enough:
What I would do were I president now, I would not be taking China’s word for it. I would insist that China allow our scientists in to make a hard determination of how it started, where it’s from, how far along it is. Because that is not happening now.
Biden’s promise featured prominently in a campaign ad in which the Biden team knocked President Trump for having “rolled over for the Chinese,” citing his comments that the Chinese government is working hard to contain the virus. Then, in March, Biden falsely claimed that the administration made no effort to get U.S. experts into the country. But as Politifact pointed out at the time, officials had actually started asking Beijing to admit CDC personnel as early as January.
The president has clearly failed to keep the promise that he made last February. His use of the issue as a campaign talking point was based on a false claim, anyway.
Now, though, he should demand transparency about the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s cooperation with the People’s Liberation Army and order the release of any relevant information about WIV that could shape the debate about the virus’s origins. Unfortunately, for all of its efforts to shape the WHO investigation, the administration doesn’t seem eager to do any of that.