Hawkish Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., issued a menacing statement on Thursday vowing that the United States "will hold accountable those who inflicted" the coronavirus on the world, seeming to suggest that the Chinese government was behind the pandemic.
"The Wuhan coronavirus is a grave challenge to our great nation," said Cotton, who announced he is temporarily closing his Washington office as a precautionary measure. "We are a great people. We rise to every challenge, we vanquish every foe, and we come through adversity even better than before."
Critics slammed Cotton for exploiting the deadly pandemic to beat the drums of war as the U.S. struggles to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. "When all you have is a hammer and you're also a moron, every problem is a nail and you keep hitting your own fingers," tweeted Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council. Others similarly condemned Cotton's warmongering comments:
Cotton's statement Thursday was not the first time the senator has indulged in conspiracy theories related to the origins of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 130,000 people and killed nearly 5,000 worldwide. In a Feb. 17 appearance on Fox News, Cotton parroted the unfounded claim that coronavirus may have emerged from a biochemical lab in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
"We don't know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that," Cotton said. "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." Cotton went on to acknowledge that there is "no evidence" the virus originated in the Wuhan lab.
Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, told the Washington Post last month that "there's absolutely nothing in the genome sequence of this virus that indicates the virus was engineered.""The possibility this was a deliberately released bioweapon can be firmly excluded," said Ebright.
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) has temporarily closed his Washington, D.C. office to protect the health of his staff and to prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus. D.C. Staff will continue to work from home. Senator Cotton released the statement below concerning the closure:
“The Wuhan coronavirus is a grave challenge to our great nation. My first priority is always the safety of our people. Since I first heard reports of an unknown virus spreading in central China in early January, I have endeavored to protect you and your family from this menace.
"From the beginning, I have heeded the counsel of Benjamin Franklin: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I urge every American to do the same—as individuals, in their families, and at their workplaces and schools. Together, through prudent and responsible actions, we can arrest the spread of this virus and protect the health of our nation.
"Effectively immediately, therefore, I have closed my Washington, D.C. office. An aide in another Senate office has tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus; other congressional employees are likely to test positive in the days ahead. The most sensible course of action for the public and the congressional workforce under the circumstances is for my staff to telecommute.
"A weeklong congressional recess begins tomorrow, so the disruption to our in-office operations will be minimal. My D.C. office will remain closed through that recess. But my staff will be available to assist you promptly by email and phone, as always.
"I will remain at work for legislative business while the Senate is in session, and I will continue to work around the clock to protect you and our nation. My offices in Arkansas will remain open. Our state currently has one confirmed case of the Wuhan coronavirus; that case is travel-related. I will assess the situation in Arkansas as it develops.
"We are a great people. We rise to every challenge, we vanquish every foe, and we come through adversity even better than before. I have every confidence America will once again marshal the resolve, toughness, and genius of our people to overcome the serious threat to our health and well-being posed by the Wuhan coronavirus.
"We will emerge stronger from this challenge, we will hold accountable those who inflicted it on the world, and we will prosper in the new day.”