CNN's Stelter stays relatively quiet on media's about-face on coronavirus lab leak theory

Media top headlines May 26

CNN’s Jeff Zucker downplaying Chris Cuomo advising his brother as a ‘mistake’ and more round out today’s top media headlines

CNN’s Brian Stelter covers the media for his network but has been relatively quiet about the massive shift in press coverage on the origins of the coronavirus.

After outlets almost uniformly dismissed the notion last year that the virus could have accidentally leaked from a Wuhan lab known for its experiments on bat coronaviruses, there has been a sharp about-face on the subject over the past month. 

Stelter dedicated four links to the story in his daily “Reliable Sources” newsletter Tuesday night, including one by left-wing journalist Jonathan Chait about the media’s “failures” on coverage of the situation.

But the outspoken journalist offered no commentary of his own in the newsletter, which primarily focused on controversial remarks by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., comparing mask mandates to Nazi treatment of Jews.

Stelter linked to Glenn Kessler’s Washington Post timeline of how the theory “suddenly” became credible, without noting that Kessler called the idea “virtually impossible” last year. He also linked to commentary by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, one of several journalists to cast blame on former President Donald Trump for making the lab theory too political to take seriously.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported on intelligence about three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology who grew so sick in late 2019 that they needed hospital care, fueling further speculation about the likelihood of a lab accident spurring the pandemic. Stelter did not mention the story in his newsletter that night.

Among the outlets to bash the lab-leak theory last year was Stelter’s own CNN, with multiple stories questioning Republicans for promoting it. At one point, CNN uncritically tweeted out a quote from China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman dismissing it as “disinformation” and a Republican election “strategy.”


Former Vox writer Matthew Yglesias took the media to task on Wednesday, outlining what he called unfair treatment of Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.., by legacy outlets last year when he hypothesized the Chinese government was covering up the virus’ true source.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this month at PolitiFact’s United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking event that he was “not convinced” the virus originated with animals. Stelter did not appear alongside Fauci but did participate as a special guest at the event from the left-leaning outlet.

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