Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took a sarcastic jab at social media platforms on Monday, asking if Dr. Anthony Fauci should be deplatformed after he said earlier this month he was “not convinced” that COVID-19 developed naturally.
DeSantis referenced Fauci’s remarks at a press conference ahead of his signing of a Florida bill that will penalize social media platforms for suspending the accounts of political candidates.
During the event, the Republican governor argued that social media platforms had previously cracked down on accounts who posted claims that the COVID-19 pandemic may have originated at a lab in Wuhan, China.
“Now we have information that this very well may have emanated from the Wuhan lab, that it was a leak from the lab,” DeSantis said. “But you remember, when people last year were raising that as something that needed to be investigated, they were deplatformed for talking about the lab leak, they were censored for having said that, and now even Fauci admits that this may be something that may very well is the case. Are they going to now censor Fauci and pull him down off social media?”
The World Health Organization report compiled in tandem with Chinese experts concluded in March that the lab leak theory was “extremely unlikely” and the virus most likely spread through human contact with infected animals. But officials in the US and Europe have questioned the report’s findings and called for a more transparent investigation into the virus’ origins.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology required hospital treatment in November 2019. A previous State Department fact sheet noted the researchers had “symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.”
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, was a longtime skeptic of the lab theory, telling National Geographic last May that there was no scientific evidence claims the virus was “artificially or deliberately manipulated.”
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Fauci appeared to reverse course during an appearance at a PolitiFact virtual symposium earlier this month. During the event, Fauci was asked if he was still confident the virus developed naturally.
“I’m not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out, to the best of our ability, what happened,” Fauci said at the event. “Certainly, the people who have investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else and we need to find that out.”