Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said on Wednesday that he views Chinese “cover-up” efforts as a major obstacle to forming a conclusive answer on the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Speaking with Fox News aboard a military aircraft returning from the Air Force Academy, Milley said, “Once this virus started appearing, there seems to have been a fair amount of activity or cover-up or lack of transparency, probably the best way to put it, and all of that is disturbing,” Milley said. “So we need to get to the bottom of it. That’s clear.”
Early on in the outbreak of COVID-19, China faced criticism for punishing whistleblowers coming forward such as Dr. Li Wenliang, who raised early warnings about the coronavirus and was subsequently detained by Chinese police and reprimanded for “spreading rumors.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also been criticized for its handling of COVID-19 information coming out of China, including a mid-January 2020 tweet assessing no evidence the virus could transmit from human to human. In April of 2020, as the virus death toll began to rise in the U.S., Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) accused the WHO of assisting China in covering up the severity of the virus and called for lawmakers to consider investigating the United Nations organization.
Milley was asked if his opinion on the origins of the coronavirus had changed in the last year, amid new evidence supporting a possible lab outbreak in Wuhan, China. Milley said he believes the virus originated naturally but said “we don’t know for certain.”
“My opinion hasn’t changed, because I haven’t seen any different evidence. What I said a year ago, it’s still true today,” he said. “It’s inconclusive. We don’t know.”
Milley’s comments came hours after President Joe Biden called on the U.S. intelligence community to “redouble” their investigative efforts and “bring us closer to a definitive conclusion” about the origins of COVID-19 with a new report on the matter within 90 days.
“I think that the president is exactly right, we need to get to the bottom of it,” Milley told Fox News.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate also passed a bill requiring the Biden administration and the director of national intelligence to declassify intelligence on the origins of COVID-19.
Republican lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee also recently issued a report alleging dissenting opinions within the U.S. intelligence community, including views connecting the virus to a lab outbreak in Wuhan, were suppressed. The House Republican report further alleged the intelligence community relied on outside experts with undeclared conflicts of interest to investigate the origins of the virus.