+
upworthy
Health

Jon Stewart reveals the backlash he received about defending the COVID lab leak theory

We need to be able to have tough conversations.

jon stewart, wuhan lab leak, stephen colbert

Jon Stewart applauding at the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games.

The debate over the origins of the COVID-19 virus has overwhelmingly come down partisan lines. Democrats tend to believe it came out of a wet market in Wuhan, China. Republicans tend to support the theory that it came from a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

It’s easy to see why partisans have come down on different sides of the divide. Conservative media tends to demonize China and position it as an enemy of the United States. In contrast, liberals are more sensitive to race issues and don’t want to demonize Chinese people. This concern was played out in real time after there was a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.



But shouldn’t people choose to believe how the virus originated based on facts instead of blindly supporting their political tribe? Especially when discussing a deadly disease that has killed nearly 7 million people?

Jon Stewart thinks so.

In 2021, he caused a big stir when he broke ranks with many liberals by endorsing the lab leak hypothesis on ‘Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

"Science has, in many ways, helped ease the suffering of this pandemic…which was more than likely caused by science," he said to nervous laughter.

Colbert added there was "a chance" the virus leaked out of the lab.

"A chance? Oh my god!" Stewart replied. "There's a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China. What do we do? Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab.”

"The disease is the same name as the lab! That's just a little too weird, don't you think?" he continued.

Stewart then put his theory in perspective.

"There's been an outbreak of chocolatey goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania—what do you think happened?" he said. "Oh, I don't know, maybe a steam shovel mated with a cocoa bean…or it's the f**ing chocolate factory. Maybe that's it!"

The idea is gaining traction two years after Stewart's admission. On Tuesday, February 28, FBI Director Christopher Wray publicly acknowledged that the Bureau considers the lab leak theory the likeliest cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Energy has also endorsed the idea saying it has “low confidence” that COVID-19 “most likely arose” from a lab leak.

However, none of the other U.S. agencies have changed their assessment that natural origin is more likely, so the intelligence community sits divided, with no definitive proof either way.

Stewart addressed the controversy on the latest episode of his Apple+ TV show, “The Problem with Jon Stewart.” When it was brought up on the show’s accompanying podcast, he shared how the debate shows an inability for people to discuss complex topics in today’s political climate.

WARNING: Strong language.

“The larger problem with all of this is the inability to discuss things that are within the realm of possibility without falling into absolutes and litmus-testing each other for our political allegiances as it arose from that,” Stewart added.

“My bigger problem with that was, I thought it was a pretty good bit that expressed kind of how I felt, and the two things that came out of it were, I’m racist against Asian people, and how dare I align myself with the alt-right," he added.

Stewart said the backlash he received from people on the left was “swift, immediate and quite loud.”

“The part that I don’t like about it is the absolutes and the dismissive like ‘f**k you, I’m done with you. I will never forgive you, you have crossed an unforgivable line. You’ve expressed an opinion that is antithetical to mine, or not mine,’” Stewart continued.

“What was stunning to me, I think, was the anger,” he added.

There are numerous lessons we can learn from the COVID-19 era if we decide to look at the hard facts. One of the most important has to be our ability to think critically about important issues, whether that’s the origins of the virus or the facts about masks and vaccinations. During the pandemic, these were life-and-death tests and sadly, far too many people put their politics before the facts and paid dearly for it.

We need to know how the virus emerged, no matter how uncomfortable it makes people, so that we can prevent it from happening again.

mage from Everyday Feminism, used with permission by creator Alli Kirkham.

There are many different scenarios where consent is necessary.



In 2013, Zerlina Maxwell ignited a firestorm of controversy when she strongly recommended we stop telling women how to not get raped.

Here are her words, from the transcript of her appearance on Sean Hannity's show:

"I don't think that we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there with prevention."

So essentially — instead of teaching women how to avoid rape, let's raise boys specifically not to rape.

Keep ReadingShow less

Maddie Cable turns her brace into armor.

High school is tough enough for the average 17-year-old girl. Anyone who stands out is a target for whispers and hushed laughter in the in hallways or, at worst, public ridicule.

That's why Maddie Cable, 17, from Charlotte, North Carolina, was less than enthusiastic after being told she needed to wear a large plastic brace to school for at least six weeks.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Gen X has hit 'that stage' of life and is not handling it very well

We are NOT prepared for Salt-n-Pepa to replace Michael McDonald in the waiting room at the doctor's office, thankyouverymuch.

Gen X is eating dinner earlier and earlier. It's happening.

The thing about Gen X being in our 40s and 50s now is that we were never supposed to get "old." Like, we're the cool, aloof grunge generation of young tech geniuses. Most of the giants that everyone uses every day—Google, Amazon, YouTube—came from Gen X. Our generation is both "Friends" and "The Office." We are, like, relevant, dammit.

And also, our backs hurt, we need reading glasses, our kids are in college and how in the name of Jennifer Aniston's skincare regimen did we get here?

It's weird to reach the stage when there's no doubt that you aren't young anymore. Not that Gen X is old—50 is the new 30, you know—but we're definitely not young. And it seems like every day there's something new that comes along to shove that fact right in our faces. When did hair start growing out of that spot? Why do I suddenly hate driving at night? Why is this restaurant so loud? Does that skin on my arm look…crepey?

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

9 things to know about kids in foster care. Plus an unforgettable view into their lives.

Foster care is a nightmare for some kids and their foster parents. For others, it's a blessing.

A clip from "ReMoved Part Two"



Zoe's story, "Removed," has been seen by millions of people.

It was previously shared by my amazing Upworthy colleague Laura Willard. We got just a tiny taste of what it was like for kids in foster care, right after being removed. Specifically, a little girl named Zoe and her little brother Benaiah.

My wife and I, foster parents for the past year, even shared the original with our adoption worker, who passed it along to the entire agency and, then, it took off like wildfire among those people as well.

This is part 2 of that story, and it hits hard.

(Yes, the video's on the long side at about 20 minutes. But it's worth the watch to the end.)

She describes her life as a cycle, interrupted by a tornado. She's a foster child. I don't think I need to say any more.

Keep ReadingShow less

This isn’t comfortable to talk about.


Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault and violence.


A recent video by Just Not Sports took two prominent female sportswriters and had regular guys* read the awful abuse they receive online aloud.

Sportswriters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro sat by as men read some of the most vile tweets they receive on a daily basis. See how long you can last watching it.

Keep ReadingShow less
Science

Breastfeeding mom's touching encounter with an orangutan has people swooning—and debating

"She sat with me for approximately half an hour, kept stroking the glass and lay down next to me as if to support and protect me."

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

Keep ReadingShow less