Comedian Jon Stewart has shared his shock at being condemned by liberal TV viewers for saying he thought COVID leaked from a Wuhan virus lab.
In an interview ahead of his new show, the typically left-leaning TV personality said he was shocked by the ‘pushback’ he got for his stance and questioned how the notorious lab-leak theory became so ‘politicized.’
Asked if he found the reaction to his lab leak theory surprising, Stewart said, ‘Oh, sure, it’s democratized connection and also democratized destruction. It’s like everything…
‘It’s kind of the point I was making on Colbert that everybody got mad about….
Stewart continued: ‘Listen, how it got to be that if it was a scientific accident, it’s conservative, and if it came from a wet market, it’s liberal, I don’t know — I’m just not sure how that got politicized.
‘But it was an inelegant way to get to a bit that I’ve done for years, which is our good-intentioned brilliance will more than likely be our demise. The bit is about the last words that man ever utters, which are, “Hey, it worked.” I guess I was a little surprised at the pushback.’
During Stewart’s initial defense of the lab-leak theory, he also mocked the explanation officials in China gave for the cause of the virus. ‘They ask the scientists, how did this happen and they’re like “A penguin kissed a turtle?” he said, shrugging humorously, drawing more laughter.
Stewart shared his surprise at the pushback in a chat with The Hollywood Reporter about his new Apple TV+ project, ‘The Problem with Jon Stewart,’
That saw him referenced his June appearance on Stephen Colbert, during which he argued that science is both driving the cure of the pandemic and is the cause of it.
Asked by Colbert if he thinks there’s a chance the virus was manmade, Stewart said, ‘A chance? Oh my god, there’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China, what do we do? Oh you know who we should ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab. The disease is the same name as the lab. That’s just a little too weird!’
Comedian Jon Stewart said he was shocked by the ‘pushback’ he got for supporting the Wuhan lab-leak theory when appearing on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ in June
Stewart suggested that the coronavirus originated at a laboratory in Wuhan, China, saying it seemed too coincidental the Wuhan Institute of Virology was studying coronaviruses when COVID-19 originated in Wuhan
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter promoting his new TV show, he questioned how the theory became so ‘politicized’
He brought up the exchange with the Hollywood Reporter when discussing Twitter, which he recently joined, and the influence it has on the public’s perception of celebrities.
The lab-leak theory has long been a topic of debate in the political sphere. Most recently, it resurfaced after an investigation revealed that 26 of the 27 scientists who wrote a letter dismissing the theory in The Lancet medical journal have links to Wuhan lab itself or its researchers, colleagues or benefactors
”Maybe a bat flew into the cloaca of a turkey, and then it sneezed into my chili and now we all have coronavirus?” Stewart said.
He then compares it to ‘an outbreak of chocolatey goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania.’
‘What do you think happened?’ he asked, rhetorically. ‘I don’t know , maybe a steam shovel mated with a cocoa bean.’
‘Or it’s the f****** chocolate factory.’
At that point, Colbert pushed back against Stewart and said, ‘It could be possible that they have the lab in Wuhan to study the novel coronavirus diseases because in Wuhan there are a lot of coronavirus diseases because of the bat population there.’
But Stewart joked, ‘It’s a local specialty, and it’s the only place you can find bats. Austin, Texas has thousands of them that fly out of a cave every night at dusk. Is there an Austin coronavirus? No there doesn’t seem to be an Austin coronavirus. The only coronavirus we have is in Wuhan where they have a lab called – what’s the lab called again, Stephen?’
‘The Wuhan novel coronavirus lab,’ Colbert responds.
‘I believe that’s the case,’ Stewart replied.
‘And how long have you worked for Senator Ron Johnson,’ Colbert asked, referring to a conservative senator, to laughter and applause.
Stewart appeared on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter to discuss his upcoming show ‘The Problem with Jon Stewart’
But many were not amused by Stewarts comments and accused him of spreading a conspiracy theory and undermining the work that is still underway by experts trying to find the origins of the virus.
Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman slammed the former ‘Daily Show’ host in an op-ed following the interview, in which he wrote, ‘It seems like a long time ago now, but Jon Stewart used to be an immensely important figure sitting at the place where politics and pop culture meet . . . and because he always delighted more in skewering Republicans, it was a bit shocking to see him go on an extended rant on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ about the coronavirus lab-leak theory.’
He claimed that the lab-leak theory ‘has become associated with conservatives trying to prove that former president Donald Trump was right about everything’ and knocked the liberal comedian for suggesting ‘it’s the only plausible explanation for the source of the virus.’
‘This provides an important lesson about celebrities: You shouldn’t get your political opinions from them, or your scientific opinions either,’ Waldman wrote.
Dan Rather, the disgraced former CBS News anchor, wrote in a Substack article that Stewart’s statements were ‘dangerous and shortsighted.’
He also tweeted, ‘Stewart is playing into the trope of the mad scientist at a time when we need science more than ever to solve our more pressing problems — most notably climate change. The idea that science is the biggest threat to the planet is terribly irresponsible.’
American neurophysiologist and radio host Dr. Kiki Sanford also condemned the comedian’s words and tweeted, ‘I saw the clip and am concerned to see Stewart promoting the conspiracy . . . even if it’s just for laughs.’ In another tweet, she said that Stewart’s joke “it is at the expense of people who know a LOT about this kind of thing working really hard to figure out where the virus DID come from. The “well it must be” narrative isn’t science.’
Famed biologist Terry McGlynn also spoke out against Stewart’s claims and tweeted, ‘Oh my gosh I just saw the clip and it is both disappointing and tragic. For a guy with a reputation for seeing through the bullshit and thinking critically about the stories that we are told, his rant (and I think that is a fair description of it) is quite a surprise.’
The lab-leak theory has long been a topic of debate in the political sphere. Most recently, it resurfaced after an investigation revealed that 26 of the 27 scientists who wrote a letter dismissing the theory in The Lancet medical journal have links to Wuhan lab itself or its researchers, colleagues or benefactors.
On March 7 last year, the influential journal published the letter in which the 27 scientists said they ‘strongly condemned conspiracy theories’ surrounding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic that has impacted all corners of the world.
All debate into whether Covid-19 had man-made origins or leaked from the lab in Wuhan – the Chinese city that was ground-zero for the virus – was effectively shut down by the letter.
However, an investigation by The Daily Telegraph newspaper into the signatories has found that 26 of the 27 had some link to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where the leak was suspected – calling into question their impartiality.
DID COVID LEAK FROM A WUHAN LAB? THE EVIDENCE FOR AND AGAINST
Evidence for Wuhan lab-leak theory
An article in the respected Science journal on May 14 kick-started the surge in interest for the lab-leak theory.
Some 18 experts wrote in the journal that ‘we must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data’.
Later that month, a study by British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr Birger Sørensen claimed it had ‘prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China’ for a year.
The study included accusations of ‘deliberate destruction, concealment or contamination of data’ at Chinese labs.
It followed statements from the WHO Director General, US and EU that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve.
Previously, the theory had been dismissed as conspiracy by most experts, partly because of its association with President Donald Trump.
President Joe Biden in May ordered a full investigation into the origin of the pandemic virus and demanded scientists work out whether there is truth to the theory.
The head of the World Health Organization insisted just a day earlier that the theory that Covid emerged from a Wuhan lab has not been ruled out — as he said China should help solve the mystery out of ‘respect’ for the dead.
The body’s director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, suggested that Beijing had not cooperated fully as he urged more ‘transparency’ in the continuing investigation.
Evidence against the theory
Several other sects of the scientific community continue to suggest the virus could only be natural in origin.
A series of recent papers pointed to the virus evolving in animals before being transmitted to humans, in the same way as all other previously discovered coronaviruses.
The first study, published in Scientific Reports, showed some 47,000 wild animals from 38 species were sold across four markets in Wuhan between May 2017 and November 2019.
The authors, including Dr Chris Newman, an evolutionary ecologist at Oxford University, claimed the evidence showed the conditions for animal-to-human transmission were in place in Wuhan.
But they acknowledged there was no proof Sars-CoV-2 was present or originated in any of these animals.
A joint World Health Organization-China investigation also concluded it was ‘very likely’ the virus jumped from bats to humans via an as-yet-unknown intermediary animal.