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NY Times COVID Reporter Deletes Tweet Claiming ‘Racist Roots’ of ‘Lab Leak Theory’ After Backlash

Apoorva Mandavilli says her deleted tweets were “badly phrased”

New York Times reporter Apoorva Mandavilli deleted a tweet Wednesday night that said the COVID-19 “lab leak theory” had “racist roots.” The backlash to the tweet carried into Thursday morning and included criticism from Senator Ted Cruz.

“I deleted my earlier tweets about the origins of the pandemic because they were badly phrased. The origin of the pandemic is an important line of reporting that my colleagues are covering aggressively,” wrote Mandavilli, who primarily covers the pandemic for the paper of record.

Screenshots posted by her critics showed the original tweet read, “Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not yet here.”

For anyone somehow unfamiliar with the theory, according to a Times explainer blasted out Thursday morning, it suggests COVID-19 “accidentally leaked from a Chinese laboratory” and is all over the news now because ” some scientists who were once skeptical of the laboratory theory have expressed new openness to it.”

A representative for the Times did not immediately return a request for comment on Mandavilli’s tweet.

Online critics jumped on Mandavilli’s tweet.

“This is the ‘science’ reporter for the New York Times,” griped Sen. Ted Cruz, who spent Wednesday night and Thursday evening trending on the microblogging platform himself after seeming to ingest a bug live on Fox News. “She calls herself an ‘investigative’ reporter, covering Covid-19. She just isn’t willing to investigate or report on anything that might hurt her tender feelings.”

According to CNN’s Oliver Darcy, the criticism came from inside the Times, too, where staffers “were frustrated that a reporter would make such an assertion online as her colleagues actively work to report on the origins of the coronavirus — including the possibility of a lab leak.”