How Rand Paul and RFK Jr. Avoided the Elephant in the Room on Covid

Last week I published a long article summarizing my controversial Covid origins analysis, prompted by the fourth anniversary of my first piece in that series.

Although the Covid epidemic has largely faded from the headlines, the consequences have been enormous, with well over a million Americans dying from the disease, along with tens of millions worldwide. The lives of many billions were greatly disrupted for years and our own government spent some $10 trillion to avert a total economic collapse, raising our national debt to its highest peak since the end of World War II. That comparison is an appropriate one since I would argue that the Covid outbreak was probably the most momentous world event since that titanic military conflict of the 1940s and impacted more lives around the world than anything else in the three generations that followed.

During the last few years I had published some two dozen major articles on that topic, all arguing that there was strong even overwhelming evidence that the global Covid epidemic had been caused by the blowback from a botched American biowarfare attack against China (and Iran), and I have stood almost alone on the Internet in proclaiming that extremely controversial hypothesis. Although my recent piece was quite long, it was essentially a review of my past arguments with very little new material presented, so it consisted almost entirely of excerpts or recapitulations of what I had previously written on that subject.

After Four Years and Thirty Million Deaths
Ron Unz • The Unz Review • April 22, 2024 • 10,700 Words

One of the very few new items was a brief discussion of a recent Rand Paul podcast interview, which had partly focused on the Covid origins issue. Sen. Paul has been a strong advocate of the lab-leak theory but seemed completely unaware of any of the powerful contrary arguments and his very one-sided analysis partly prompted me to produce my own article. I also discovered that he’d published an entire book on the topic last year, so I ordered and read it.

Like his own father Ron, Rand Paul is a medical doctor by training, and the bulk of his text presented his perspective on the dangers of the new viral disease and the highly-controversial public health measures deployed to control it, including lockdowns, masking, and vaccinations. Although I have devoted little effort to investigating these matters, many of his positions seemed persuasive or at least reasonable to me, and I often already held them.

For example, it quickly became apparent that the dangers of a Covid infection were very sharply skewed by age, with the death rate for those over 60 being more than 100 times greater than for those under 40, and children or teenagers being almost totally immune from any ill effects. At the beginning of Paul’s last chapter, he helpfully quoted the April 2020 the relative mortality table of Harvard biostatistician Prof. Martin Kulldorff:

Once the vaccines became available studies soon revealed that they were relatively ineffective in preventing infection or transmission, so their primary value lay in greatly reducing the risk of serious illness and death. Therefore, vaccinating younger age cohorts was unnecessary and probably dangerously counter-productive considering the significant adverse health risks of a vaccine that relied upon an entirely new biotechnology and had been rushed into release without the usual lengthy clinical trials. Paul claimed that the vaccination mortality rate was 4 in 10,000, extremely high for any vaccine, and I have no reason to doubt his figures.

Obviously, that risk was just a small fraction of the average Covid morality rate of 50 to 100 per 10,000; but that latter figure was very heavily skewed by the elderly, so vaccinating those younger than 50 was probably ill-advised, and perhaps even those below 60 would have been better off avoiding the jab. Meanwhile, the widespread pressure for the massive vaxxing and boosting of children made absolutely no logical sense and was probably driven more by ideology, hysteria, and pharmaceutical lobbying than any valid scientific reasoning.

Paul also made a strong case that since Covid infections produced far higher levels of antibodies compared to vaccinations there was no reason for vaccinating those who had already gained immunity the natural way.

Some of his arguments regarding other public health measures also seemed plausible if not necessarily conclusive. He claimed that masking was completely ineffective because the size of the viral particles was so small relative to the filtration of the mask, but the rejoinder of proponents had been that the viral particles were usually embedded in much larger water droplets and those were successfully filtered out by masks. So the debate became an empirical one and during 2020 and 2021 I remember reading several conflicting studies without personally coming to any solid conclusion. However, the fact that most East Asian countries very heavily emphasized masking and also proved far more successful in controlling their own Covid outbreaks should not be ignored.

Meanwhile, America’s year or two of episodic lockdowns provoked enormous opposition from conservatives and libertarians, and Paul was very skeptical that the measure had provided any benefits. Although I felt that they were probably justified during the earliest weeks of the outbreak before the true fatality rates and other factors were well understood, I tended to agree with him that our haphazard and fragmentary lockdowns had little positive impact. In support of his position, he cited some evidence demonstrating that those states most energetic in implementing lockdowns had ultimately fared little better in overall health outcomes than those that had followed the opposite policy.

However, China’s extremely strict lockdowns were successful in completely stamping out the virus, allowing daily life in the entire country to completely return to normal after just a few weeks while most Americans suffered from intermittent lockdowns and other major disruptions in their lives for the next year or two. Only the appearance of the ultra-contagious (but very mild) Omicron variant finally overwhelmed China’s public health controls, soon forcing the PRC government to abandon its effort and allow the relatively weak virus to sweep through and infect its entire population. But the end result was that most Americans experienced far greater disruption in their lives than the vast majority of Chinese, while also suffering a death rate roughly three times greater. So the moral of that story seemed to be that effective, Chinese-style lockdowns actually worked quite well, while ineffective American-style lockdowns produced the worst of both worlds, an unfortunate combination of severe social disruption together with far higher death rates.

Paul also argued that closing schools made no sense since Covid infections posed little risk to children. But here I would sharply disagree with him since the argument on the other side was that students might easily pick up Covid infections from their classmates and then take those home, spreading the virus to their families and perhaps endangering their grandparents or other older relatives. So the question of closing the schools was merely part of the broader lockdown debate.

Different individuals focus on different issues. I lack Paul’s medical expertise and unlike him, I only had slight interest in the bitter public health disputes that were his central focus, so all my verdicts on his conclusions, whether positive or negative, should be taken with a large grain of salt.

But I think the opposite situation applies with regard to the origin of the Covid virus. That topic had been my central focus from the earliest days of the outbreak, while towards the beginning of his book Paul emphasized that he had little interest in that issue and had merely followed and apparently accepted the mainstream media coverage for the first sixteen months of the epidemic prior to May 2021:

I read news reports of scientists that concluded COVID-19 came from animals just like SARS and MERS had. I didn’t give it a second thought, that is, until I came across Nicholas Wade’s amazing article on the subject, self-published on

However, I think Paul may be glossing over some important facts in his account. As a conservative/libertarian Republican, he surely must have noticed the enormous wave of “Covid conspiracy theories” that dominated his ideological sector of the Internet almost from the moment the Wuhan outbreak began. As I explained in my original April 2020 article:

Back in January, few Americans were paying much attention to the early reports of an unusual disease outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which was hardly a household name. Instead, overwhelming political attention was focused on the battle over Trump’s impeachment and the aftermath of our dangerous military confrontation with Iran. But towards the end of that month, I discovered that the fringes of the Internet were awash with claims that the disease was caused by a Chinese bioweapon accidentally released from that same Wuhan laboratory, with former Trump advisor Steve Bannon and ZeroHedge, a popular right-wing conspiracy-website, playing leading roles in advancing the theory. Indeed, the stories became so widespread in those ideological circles that Sen. Tom Cotton, a leading Republican Neocon, began promoting them on Twitter and FoxNews, thereby provoking an article in the NYT on those “fringe conspiracy theories.”

Indeed, exactly 200 pages after describing his initial lack of interest in the Covid origins issue, Paul denounced the Washington Post for having “blasted” Sen. Cotton in February 2020 for suggesting that Covid had leaked from the Wuhan lab, arguing that his Republican colleague had been vindicated by the publication of Wade’s seminal article in mid-2021:

Even the Washington Post—not famous for introspection and self-correction—reversed course…The Post had smeared Cotton’s suggestions as “conspiracy theory”—the standard left-wing attack tactic where facts be damned and name-calling is sufficient.

Thus, Paul was almost certainly well aware of the widespread early claims among right-wingers that Covid had leaked from the Wuhan lab, but he had apparently dismissed that idea at the time, instead accepting the uniform mainstream media narrative that Covid was a natural virus. So when he later discovered that he had been hoodwinked by a media propaganda-bubble and many of the scientists whose public statements he had taken at face value had privately believed something very different, he naturally reacted by becoming a leading proponent of the lab-leak theory, which he regarded as the only alternative. But as I have repeatedly pointed out, there was actually a third possibility, almost totally ignored by both the mainstream and alternative media:

For more than 30 months I have emphasized that there are actually three perfectly plausible hypotheses for the Covid outbreak. The virus might have been natural, randomly appearing in Wuhan during late 2019; the virus might have been the artificial product of a scientific lab in Wuhan, which accidentally leaked out at that time; or the virus might have been the bioengineered product of America’s hundred-billion-dollar biowarfare program, the oldest and largest in the world, a bioweapon deployed against China and Iran by elements of the Trump Administration at the height of our hostile international confrontation with those countries.

The first two possibilities have been very widely discussed and debated across the Western mainstream and alternative media, while the third has been almost totally ignored…

However, since none of his staffers, colleagues, or media sources had probably ever considered that excluded third possibility, Paul seems to have entirely missed the important early clues that briefly appeared during the first year of the outbreak. Although these items were reported in the mainstream media, they quickly vanished and were forgotten. Therefore, they might easily have been missed by anyone not already primed to recognize their significance.

As a physician and an important elected official, Paul was naturally focused upon the horrific consequences of America’s Covid epidemic and the controversial public health measures intended to control it, so he cannot be blamed for missing some of those crucial news items that I eventually made the centerpiece of my own analysis. I was hardly surprised that none of the important facts emphasized in my original April 2020 article were mentioned anywhere in Paul’s 500 page book.

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