I won’t say you should discount the New York Times's coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
But I will say you should probably discount all reporting done so far by New York Times COVID-19 reporter Apoorva Mandavilli, who showed Wednesday she is too blinded by ideology to be trusted with the biggest health and science story of our lifetime.
The COVID-19 lab leak theory, which posits the virus escaped a research facility in Wuhan, China, has grown in credibility and prominence. Even the news organizations that said last year the theory was “debunked” concede now it’s quite plausible this is how the outbreak started.
This is where the evidence is taking us. But Mandavilli is troubled by the idea that anyone would talk about this.
“Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots," she said Wednesday in a since-deleted tweet. "But alas, that day is not yet here."
Mandavilli is quite literally saying we should stop discussing how COVID-19 came about, even at the expense of figuring out why 3.5 million people died. Because the theory supposedly has "racist roots.”
How is it possible for a New York Times COVID-19 reporter to believe pursuing the truth, including taking seriously an ever-more-plausible theory about a deadly virus's origins, is “racist”?
Also, how is it racist to suggest COVID-19 came from a lab but it’s not racist to suggest it came from a Chinese wet market, the competing (and increasingly implausible) theory? The unintentionally hilarious thing about dismissing the lab theory as “racist” is the alternative theory posits the world got sick because Chinese people eat bats or pangolins or whatever.
But no! Don’t say it was created in a lab! That would be racist!
Mandavilli's remarks are even more astonishing, considering the pandemic is her beat. She’s not just some ignorant political or style reporter. She is supposed to be more informed and skeptical about Chinese government propaganda than the rest of us.
Yet here she is, arguing we shouldn't seek the truth if it’s “racist.”
In hindsight, it was probably a bad idea for the New York Times to jettison its veteran science and public health reporter of 45 years because some snot-nosed high schoolers didn’t like his attitude.
The newspaper is already suffering reputational harm, and Mandavilli's obvious unfitness to cover her beat isn’t helping anything. Speaking of which, given the clownish behavior of Mandavilli and many others on the paper’s payroll, including Nikole Hannah-Jones, Taylor Lorenz, and Paul Krugman, it's amazing management hasn't kicked everyone off social media by now. Then again, maybe it's not that amazing.
Insider columnist Josh Barro theorizes, probably correctly, “The core issue here is that management at the NYT is cowardly. They are afraid of their young, noisy, leftist reporters. So they don't manage, and insubordination is rampant. And it's very damaging to the product.”
He adds, “But basically, reporters at the NYT are allowed do whatever they want on social media, however damaging to the paper’s reputation, so long as they have the right politics.”
Amazingly, Mandavilli doesn’t even recognize how she has embarrassed both herself and her employer. Instead, she sees herself as a victim.
“Ugh, I hate deleting tweets, but the reactions are … ridiculous,” she followed up. She added in a note that smacks loudly of paranoia, “Lots of clown emojis (is that code beyond just calling me a clown), allusions to the [Chinese Communist Party] and also: Is ‘fronting corporate interests’ the new ‘pharma shill’ insult?”
No — the “clowns” are not code. Social media users are simply, and rightly, referring to her as a clown. (Not everything is code for something more sinister.)
Her colleague, science reporter John Schwartz, offered her his sympathies, saying, “Discourse is broken.”
“It really is,” said Mandavilli. “The ugliness on display … oof.”
If you want to know how the corporate press got the lab leak theory so wrong last year, Mandavilli’s remarks explain it all. If there’s even a chance the truth may turn out to be inconvenient, the journalists working for formerly trusted newspapers preemptively dismiss it as “debunked,” “dangerous,” and now even “racist," and they think that's healthy for "discourse."