President Joe Biden failed to meet this week's deadline for the congressionally mandated release of documents related to the origins of COVID-19, despite having signed the law requiring the declassification. The missed deadline comes on the heels of news reports indicating that scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, including one funded by the U.S. government, were likely among the first to fall ill with COVID.
The law, called the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023, requires the White House to release by June 18 any pertinent information regarding the origins of the virus and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where U.S. taxpayer funding was used to study novel coronaviruses.
"It’s not a request. It’s not please. It is the law. They have to declassify the information and they have to give a full report," Republican senator Josh Hawley (Mo.), who introduced the bill, said. "What are you afraid of, why are you so afraid of letting the public know the truth."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Biden signed the law on March 20, promising his administration "will declassify and share as much of that information as possible."
Just days after the deadline passed, a new report revealed that one of the first people to fall sick with what was likely COVID-19 was a scientist funded by the U.S. government working on coronaviruses.
The report substantiates the theory that the pandemic began with a lab leak in Wuhan, China, and that U.S. funding of coronavirus research played a role in developing the novel virus that led to months of government-mandated lockdowns.
Republican senator Marco Rubio (Fla.) concluded last month that the virus's likely origin was the Wuhan lab. The senator's 328-page report says systemic negligence from scientists and government incompetence left the lab susceptible to a leak.