Sen. Tom Cotton still pitching debunked theory about coronavirus

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) continues to push a debunked theory that the coronavirus is linked to a biological lab in China.

The lab theory, which has been circulating in right-wing publications and on the internet, also suggests the virus may have started as an unleashed biological weapon. 

Scientists say the virus may have begun with animal-to-human transmission at a Wuhan seafood and wildlife market. But Cotton disagrees.

“We don’t know where it originated,” Cotton said on Fox News on Sunday. “But we do know we have to get to the bottom of that. We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.”

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U.S. citizens evacuated from the Diamond Princess
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U.S. citizens evacuated from the Diamond Princess
In this image from a video taken on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, Paul Molesky, right, and Cheryl Molesky, who evacuated off the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess, film selfie video aboard a Kalitta Air plane bound for the U.S., at Haneda airport in Tokyo.(Cheryl and Paul Molesky via AP)
A group of ambulances from the Solano EMS Cooperative stage at the visitor center at Travis Air Force Base, adjacent to Fairfield, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. A group of Americans cut short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be whisked back to America. But they will have to spend another quarantine period at U.S. military facilities including Travis to make sure they don't have the new virus that's been sweeping across Asia. (AP Photo/Hector Amezcua)
A group of ambulances from the Solano EMS Cooperative stage at the visitor center at Travis Air Force Base, adjacent to Fairfield, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. A group of Americans cut short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be whisked back to America. But they will have to spend another quarantine period at U.S. military facilities including Travis to make sure they don't have the new virus that's been sweeping across Asia. (AP Photo/Hector Amezcua)
The quarantined ship Diamond Princess is pictured through barbed wire at Yokohama port in Yokohama, near Tokyo Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. Japanese officials have confirmed 99 more people infected by the new virus aboard the ship, the Health Ministry said Monday. (Mayuko Isobe/Kyodo News via AP)
In this image from a video taken on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, U.S. passengers who evacuated off the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess and officials wait for the takeoff of a Kalitta Air airplane bound for the U.S., at Haneda airport in Tokyo.(Cheryl and Paul Molesky via AP)
In this image from a video taken on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, U.S. passengers who evacuated off the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess, wait for the takeoff of a Kalitta Air plane bound for the U.S., at Haneda airport in Tokyo.(Cheryl and Paul Molesky via AP)
In this image from a video taken on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, U.S. passengers who evacuated off the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess, board a Kalitta Air plane bound for the U.S., at Haneda airport in Tokyo.(Cheryl and Paul Molesky via AP)
In this image from a video taken on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, U.S. passengers who evacuated off the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess, board a Kalitta Air plane bound for the U.S., at Haneda airport in Tokyo.(Cheryl and Paul Molesky via AP)
A bus carrying U.S. passengers who were aboard the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess arrives at Haneda airport in Tokyo, before the passengers board a Kalitta airplane chartered by the U.S. government Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. The cruise ship was carrying nearly 3,500 passengers and crew members under quarantine. (Sadayuki Goto/Kyodo News via AP)
In this image from a video taken on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, U.S. passengers who evacuated off the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess, board a Kalitta Air plane bound for the U.S., at Haneda airport in Tokyo.(Cheryl and Paul Molesky via AP)
A bus carrying U.S. passengers who were aboard the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess, background, leaves Yokohama port, near Tokyo, early Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. The cruise ship was carrying nearly 3,500 passengers and crew members under quarantine. (Jun Hirata/Kyodo News via AP)
Buses carrying passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. A group of Americans are cutting short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be whisked back to America. But they will have to spend another quarantine period at a U.S. military facility to make sure they don't have the new virus that's been sweeping across Asia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Buses carrying American passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. A group of Americans are cutting short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be whisked back to America. But they will have to spend another quarantine period at a U.S. military facility to make sure they don't have the new virus that's been sweeping across Asia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Buses carrying passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. A group of Americans are cutting short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be whisked back to America. But they will have to spend another quarantine period at a U.S. military facility to make sure they don't have the new virus that's been sweeping across Asia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Buses carrying American passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. A group of Americans are cutting short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be whisked back to America. But they will have to spend another quarantine period at a U.S. military facility to make sure they don't have the new virus that's been sweeping across Asia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Buses carrying American passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. A group of Americans are cutting short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be whisked back to America. But they will have to spend another quarantine period at a U.S. military facility to make sure they don't have the new virus that's been sweeping across Asia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Buses carrying American passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. A group of Americans are cutting short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be whisked back to America. But they will have to spend another quarantine period at a U.S. military facility to make sure they don't have the new virus that's been sweeping across Asia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Buses carrying American passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. A group of Americans are cutting short a 14-day quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, to be whisked back to America. But they will have to spend another quarantine period at a U.S. military facility to make sure they don't have the new virus that's been sweeping across Asia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A bus leaves the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship at a port Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Yokohama, near Tokyo. The U.S. says Americans aboard a quarantined ship will be flown back home on a chartered flight Sunday, but that they will face another two-week quarantine. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A bus leaves the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship at a port Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Yokohama, near Tokyo. The U.S. says Americans aboard a quarantined ship will be flown back home on a chartered flight Sunday, but that they will face another two-week quarantine. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Although Cotton admitted there was no evidence to suggest the disease actually originated at the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, he then complained about China’s “duplicity and dishonesty.” 

Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the U.S., denounced Cotton’s theory on “Face The Nation” earlier this month.

“It’s very harmful, it’s very dangerous to stir up suspicion, rumors and spread them among the people,” Cui said. “For one thing, this will create panic. Another thing is that it will fan up racial discrimination, xenophobia, all these things that will really harm our joint efforts to combat the virus.”

Vipin Narang, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The Washington Post that “we don’t have any evidence” that the general population was exposed to a virus through an accident at a lab. He called Cotton’s speculation a conspiracy theory that was borderline irresponsible.

“Cotton should spend more time funding the agencies in the United States that can help contain and combat the virus rather than trying to assign blame,” Narang said.

Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, also told the Post that there was nothing in the genome sequence of the virus that indicated it had been engineered.

“The possibility this was a deliberately released bioweapon can be firmly excluded,” Ebright added.

The coronavirus, know as COVID-19, has killed at least 1,666 people and infected more than 68,500 people globally, the vast majority in mainland China.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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