May 3, 2020 - World

Pompeo says there's "enormous evidence" coronavirus originated in Wuhan lab

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that there's "enormous evidence" to support the theory that the coronavirus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, not a nearby market.

Why it matters: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced Thursday that it is investigating whether the outbreak was the result of exposure to wild animals or a laboratory accident in Wuhan. Pompeo said he has no reason to doubt the intelligence community's consensus that the virus was "not manmade or genetically modified."

  • President Trump also claimed last week that he has seen evidence that gives him a "high degree of confidence" that the lab was the origin of the virus, but refused to elaborate.

What he's saying:

"Martha, there's enormous evidence that that's where this began. We have said from the beginning, that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outset. But I think the whole world can see now. Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running sub-standard laboratories. These are not the first times that we have had the world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab."
— Mike Pompeo

The big picture: There are two similar-sounding theories that link the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the origin of the coronavirus, as Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian has reported. One is very unlikely; the other is plausible but unverified.

  • The first is that the coronavirus was created as part of a Chinese bioweapons research program allegedly linked to the WIV. Virologists have determined this is highly unlikely.
  • The second is that the virus was being studied at the WIV, and a lab accident resulted in the virus' accidental transmission to an employee who then unknowingly spread the virus in the city. This is plausible, but there is no direct or public evidence to support it.

Go deeper: What we know about the Chinese lab at the center of the coronavirus controversy

Go deeper