Senior Editor’s note: This article and other work of Barry Kissin, seen as ‘controlled opposition’ and without substance, would normally have been rejected by VT except for the intercession of Kevin Barrett. Otherwise it would be deemed “spam.”
Barry Kissin discusses this article on tonight’s live radio show. -Kevin Barrett, VT Editor
Romanoff’s Version of COVID-19 Conspiracy Doesn’t Hold Up
By Barry Kissin (this article was rejected by GlobalResearch.ca)
On March 12, Zhao Lijian, deputy director of and spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry Information Department, issued two tweets, the first providing a link to Global Research’s publication on March 4 of Larry Romanoff’s “China’s Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US?” and the second providing a link to Global Research’s publication on March 11 of Larry Romanoff’s “COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US.”Zhao says that these articles “changed many things I used to believe in” and should be read and retweeted.
On the same day, March 12, The Hill reported that “a spokesman for the Chinese government [Zhao Lijian] on Thursday promoted a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was brought to the city of Wuhan by the U.S. military. Taiwan News reported: “Coincidentally, Zhao’s fellow foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang backed the conspiracy theory suggesting the virus was bio-engineered by the [U.S.].” On March 13, the New York Times published about Zhao Lijian’s tweets in an article subtitled “After criticizing American officials for politicizing the pandemic, Chinese officials and news outlets have floated unfounded theories that the United States was the source of the virus.” 
On March 13, the U.S. summoned China’s ambassador in order to communicate that “spreading conspiracy theories is dangerous and ridiculous. We wanted to put the government on notice we won’t tolerate it, for the good of the Chinese people and the world.” Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai “in contrast to Zhao, is known for his diplomatic approach and has publicly called for US-Chinese cooperation against the pandemic.” 
I firmly reject that conspiracy theories in general are “ridiculous.” Conspiracies among the most powerful repeatedly have been factually demonstrated and covered up. But when supporting facts are insufficient, I also believe that conspiracy theories can be dangerous and can undermine necessary cooperation.
I agree with what Xinhua journalist Gao Wencheng wrote on March 9 in response to the equally unsubstantiated theory that the COVID-19 epidemic began with the leak of a Chinese biological weapon: “[D]angerously irresponsible statements are highly counterproductive at this drastic hour that demands solidarity and cooperation, and could be much more menacing than the virus itself … it is time for countries to build a united front to win the war on the disease.”
Global Research has attracted international attention to its many articles on the subject of COVID-19, including not only a series of Larry Romanoff’s articles, but also articles by its editor Professor Michel Chossudovsky and others that rely upon Larry Romanoff’s work. As I write on March 18, Global Research has posted “Beijing Believes COVID-19 Is a Biological Weapon” that begins by referring to statements by Zhao Lijan and continues with a rehashing of Romanoff’s misleading evidence. The balance of this article critiques the two articles by Romanoff cited by China’s Foreign Ministry Information Department. These articles are supported by insufficient evidence, worse are contradicted by their own footnoted sources.
China’s Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US?
Romanoff’s article published on March 4 has as its first contention that “Chinese Researchers Conclude the Virus Originated Outside of China.” Romanoff cites in support of this contention three references set forth in his Footnotes 1, 2 and 3.
The first source is a Global Times article that does not say that the virus originated outside of China. The title of this article is “New Chinese study indicates novel coronavirus did not originate in [Wuhan] seafood market.” Its conclusion is: “[B]ased upon limited samples in other countries, the source of most infections is deemed to be the same. In addition to their contact history with Wuhan, some may have been infected in South China’s Guangdong Province and Singapore.” 
The second source, CGTN, also only says that the Wuhan seafood market was not the source. Its conclusion is: “The mysterious source of the novel coronavirus outbreak has led to a divide among scientists worldwide … The origin of the novel coronavirus is still unknown, but it’s most likely an animal reservoir, said the World Health Organization.” 
Both Global Times and CGTN are reporting about the same scholarly study by Chinese scientists which is titled “Decoding evolution and transmissions of novel pneumonia coronavirus using the whole genomic data.” 
In no way does this Chinese study imply that the U.S. is the original source. In one paragraph, this study links some of the American “haplotypes” to Wuhan, others possibly to Guangdong Province, others possibly to patients from Vietnam and Australia “who might be initially from Wuhan.” “[S]o the sources of imported infections are complicated.”
This study explains that the “currently available samples do not include the first identified infected patient and other patients from early December” and that “genomic sequencing” of such samples would “help to locate the birthplace” of COVID-19. This study concludes: “We suspect that super-spreaders mediated the spread from China to the rest of the world.”
This scientific study also contradicts the other facet of Romanoff’s theory, namely that COVID-19 is man-made, bio-engineered. In contrast, the genomic analysis in this study attributes the evolving characteristics of COVID-19 to mutations.
Footnote 3 of Romanoff’s March 4 article cites the only other scientific study among his references, namely “Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China,” published in The Lancet. This study says nothing about origination except to mention that the related SARS and MERS coronaviruses “were believed to originate in bats.” The only potentially relevant fact adduced in this study is that of the first 41 patients diagnosed with COVID-19, one-third (including the first patient so diagnosed) did not have “directexposure to the Wuhan seafood market.” (emphasis added). 
Footnote 4 cites Xinhua for the following statement by “renowned Chinese respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan”: “Though the COVID-19 was first discovered in China, it does not mean that it originated from China.” The balance of Zhong’s statement quoted in the Xinhua article is: “We need greater international cooperation. This is a human disease, not a national disease.” This hardly suggests a belief on Zhong’s part that the origin of COVID-19 is a bio-engineered virus from the U.S.
Romanoff’s next contention is that Japanese media report that “The Coronavirus May Have Originated in the US.” Romanoff is referring to a report by TV Asahi of Japan which he says “presented scientific documentation.” But the reference at Footnote 5 identifies only one slender fact in support of U.S. origin, namely that “it is unknown whether Americans who have already died of the influenza had contracted the coronavirus.” The reference at Footnote 5 itself expresses skepticism about the meaningfulness of this slender fact. 
Romanoff’s next contention is “Taiwan Virologist Suggests the Coronavirus Originated in the US.” This is based on “a rough translation, summary and analysis of selected content” of one particular Taiwanese newscast on Feb. 27 in which someone referred to by Romanoff as a “top virologist” explains that “the geographical location with the greatest diversity of virus strains must be the original source” and that “only the US has all the five known strains of the virus.” Romanoff does not reveal the source of this “rough translation, summary and analysis of selected content,” nor does he identify the virologist’s database. Strangely, the only related footnote is to a series of social media type comments posted at a Chinese “microblogging” site. 
The peer reviewed Chinese scientific study “Decoding Evolution … using the whole genomic data” discussed above (that sets forth over 50 references) also engages in an analysis based on diversity of COVID-19 strains, but reaches no conclusion like that of Romanoff’s unidentified Taiwanese virologist. For example, this Chinese study points out: “The high haplotype diversity found in samples from other countries may be because the sampling dates were mostly after 22 January 2020, while those in China were before this date. In addition, the low level of radiation exposure on long-distance international flights may have accelerated mutation rates of [COVID-19].” 
The Taiwanese virologist is also said to believe that the COVID-19 outbreak began in September, 2019, two months prior to the infections in China, because of “the case in September of 2019 where some Japanese traveled to Hawaii and returned home infected, people who had never been to China.” Romanoff cites no other reference to substantiate this case, and I could find nothing else on the internet that speaks of Japanese becoming infected by COVID-19 in September, 2019. (Reuters did report on the case of a Japanese man diagnosed with COVID-19 after visiting Hawaii, but his visit was from Jan. 28 to Feb. 7, and he is believed to have become infected in Japan before embarking on his trip to Hawaii.) 
COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US
Romanoff’s article published on March 11 begins by repeating points in his March 4 article and then focuses on the “CDC totally shutting down the US Military’s main bio-lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland, due to an absence of safeguards against pathogen leakages,” as if said “pathogen leakages” included leaking COVID-19.
I happen to be a long-time resident of Frederick, Maryland, the home of Fort Detrick. As an activist, I have organized opposition to the massive expansion of bio-labs at Fort Detrick, arguing that such bio-labs do not belong in the middle of what is now a densely populated community, but also arguing that such bio-labs do not belong anywhere.
The problems that resulted in the shutdown in July, 2019, began in May, 2018, “when storms flooded and ruined a decades-old steam sterilization plant that the Detrick had been using to treat wastewater from its labs.” Detrick then resorted to a decontamination system using chemicals. “During an inspection in June, , the C.D.C. found that procedures were not being followed consistently. Inspectors also found mechanical problems with the chemical-based decontamination system, as well as leaks.” 
To date, there is zero evidence that said leaks had anything to do with COVID-19. My densely populated community has not experienced anything like an epidemic attributable to any kind of virus or influenza. On March 16 (2020), the Frederick County Health Department reported the first case of COVID-19 in Frederick County. 
Though the March 11 article promises “further evidence that the virus originated in the U.S.,” there is no additional scientific evidence. Footnote 1 is to another Chinese social media site. Footnote 2 is to a Jan. 2020Sciencemagazine article which in a section titled “Where Did the Virus Come From? begins: “Almost certainly from animals, but when and how are mysteries. Genetic analyses are starting to yield some clues.”
Footnote 3 is to another Jan. 2020 Sciencemagazine article essentially recapping The Lancetarticle discussed above (Footnote 3 of Romanoff’s March 4 article) and adding one Georgetown University scientist’s opinion that COVID-19 did not originate in the Wuhan seafood market. There is nothing in this article that remotely suggests COVID-19 was bio-engineered or that it came from the U.S. Footnotes 4 and 5 are to the same article in The Lancetabout “clinical features.”
Footnote 6 is a mistake – the reference therein is completely unrelated to the text for which it is cited. Footnote 7 merely repeats that some of the first patients had no direct links to the seafood market. Footnote 8 is to an interview with the same Georgetown University scientist quoted in the Sciencearticle in Footnote 3 in which he repeats that COVID-19 “could have begun in October-November or earlier in 2019.” Footnote 9 is to an article by another of the scientists quoted in the Sciencearticle in Footnote 3 who states: “We are starting to see more structure in the tree and overall the genetic data is highly suggestive of a single-point introduction into the human population … This introduction was likely via either a single infected animal or a small cluster of recently infected animals directly into either a single human individual or a small cluster of human individuals.” Finally, Footnote 10 is to a scientific analysis published in 2013 about the coronavirus MERS.
Romanoff concludes his March 11 article by repeating the logic of the (unidentified) Taiwanese virologist relied upon in his March 4 article that is critiqued above.
The two articles by Larry Romanoff posted by Global Research and endorsed by China’s Foreign Ministry present insufficient evidence that COVID-19 originated in the U.S. as a bio-engineered virus. Most of the sources set forth in Romanoff’s footnotes contradict his theory.
Barry Kissin is a retired attorney, dedicated peace activist and columnist who resides in Frederick, Maryland, home of Fort Detrick. He is regularly published in his local newspaper, The Frederick News-Post, as well as in alternative media, including Global Research.
Dr. Kevin Barrett, a Ph.D. Arabist-Islamologist is one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror.
He also has appeared many times on Fox, CNN, PBS, and other broadcast outlets, and has inspired feature stories and op-eds in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chicago Tribune, and other leading publications.
Dr. Barrett has taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin; where he ran for Congress in 2008. He currently works as a nonprofit organizer, author, and talk radio host.