Sen. Lindsey Graham says scientists who signed a letter last year claiming the coronavirus causing COVID-19 jumped naturally from animals to humans had put out a political document "trying to destroy the credibility" of then-President Donald Trump and others who argued the pandemic-causing disease had leaked from a Chinese lab.
"The media took it and ran, and it changed the course of the election," Graham told Fox News' Sean Hannity Tuesday night. "Why? Because number one, the scientists are tied to this lab. They were covering their a**. They put out a letter not based on science, but a political document trying to destroy the credibility of people who suggested it came out of a lab."
The February 2020 statement, which was signed by 27 scientists and published in the British medical journal The Lancet, dismissed "conspiracy theories" that the virus had leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
"We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin … Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against this virus," the document said.
"This is the Russia dossier all over again," Graham told Hannity. "This stinks to high heaven. This is lab-gate, China-gate, call it whatever you want to call it."
Last week, Vanity Fair reported that the Lancet statement was organized by Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance.
The alliance was the same nonprofit that had sent grant money it got from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the Wuhan lab.
New York City microbiologist Peter Palese, who signed the letter, last week told The Daily Mail that he was no longer convinced that the virus started with animals, as "a lot of disturbing information has surfaced."
Meanwhile, Graham said that had Trump been proven right about the lab leak theory, "it would have changed the outcome of the 2020 election."
"If we could have proven that early on in 2020 it was a lab leak coming from China, not occurring naturally, the public would want revenge against China, and who would they turn to, (Joe) Biden or Trump?" Graham said.
He also said he thinks the letter was orchestrated by persons who were "worried about their own a** being in the sling because of their relationship with China, and I think there was a political motivation here to destroy Trump’s credibility."
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that a classified report from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a top government laboratory, had concluded in May 2020 that the lab leak theory was plausible and should be investigated further.
The report remained undiscovered until a State Department intelligence analyst uncovered it in the fall. The paper was used to galvanize the department’s probe into the origins of the pandemic. The Biden administration shut down that investigation earlier this spring, but the president in recent days has ordered a 90-day probe of his own after information surfaced concerning the hospitalization of three Wuhan scientists in November 2019, before the illness had been announced.
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