The Chinese military was apparently doing animal experiments in the Wuhan virology lab where there was likely an outbreak of flu-like illness in the fall of 2019, Matthew Pottinger, a deputy national security adviser to former President Donald Trump, said Sunday.
In a bombshell revelation on CBS News’ “Face The Nation,” Pottinger said “the ledger on the side of the explanation that said [the outbreak] resulted from some kind of human error far outweighs the side of the scale that says this was some natural outbreak.”
“We have very strong reason to believe that the Chinese military was doing secret, classified animal experiments in that same laboratory, going all the way back to at least 2017,” he said.
“We have good reason to believe that there was an outbreak of flu-like illness among researchers working in the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the fall of 2019, immediately before the first documented cases came to light.”
Pottinger noted the information declassified by the Department of State before the end of Trump administration was “very carefully” crafted — but unmistakable -- that there was a COVID-like disease circulating in China in the autumn of 2019.
“The case it was making was for following up on these important leads," he said.
According to Pottinger, the Chinese government had reason to cover up the virus spread, but doctors there knew — and openly spoke about — a virus that was “spreading silently.”
“We had about a dozen [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] officers in China,” Pottinger said. “We had lots of CDC officers in the United States that deal with Chinese doctors. …They said this thing is not going to be like SARS. It is going to be like the 1918 flu pandemic because it is spreading silently.”
Yet, he said, U.S. officials “were a little bit too credulous.”
“We were waiting to be fed information when we were not going to get that information,” he said. “They had a strong incentive to mislead their own public and the rest of the world about the nature of this virus.”
Pottinger pointed out that the Chinese Communist Party didn’t turn to its country’s CDC to deal with the crisis — “they turned to their military.”
“Our CDC did not have relations established with the Chinese military. So the director of the Chinese CDC, based on public reporting, didn't know either… that this thing was circulating until the last day of December," Pottinger said.
But he added there were early missteps in the United States as well — including the “misjudgment by public health officials in this country to not advocate for the widespread, generalized use of face coverings,” he said.
“They feared shortages,” he said. “We put all of our mask-making supplies into, guess where, China. And China was not making it easy for us to get access to additional supplies. … It then made the mistake of inflating that with a set of advice that masks don't work effectively for the general public. That was a big mistake. “
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