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'Potential lab incident': FBI director Wray speaks publicly for 1st time on COVID-19 origin

The FBI has assessed the virus "most likely" came from a Chinese lab leak.

February 28, 2023, 7:12 PM

FBI director Christopher Wray on Tuesday spoke publicly for the first time on the bureau's assessment that the COVID-19 virus "most likely" originated from a potential lab incident in Wuhan, China.

He also faulted the Chinese government in an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier for, he said, trying to thwart the work of U.S. agencies investigating the beginnings of the global pandemic.

"The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan," he said.

Wray's comments came after a report in the Wall Street Journal, not independently confirmed by ABC News, that a new Department of Energy assessment has found the virus was most likely the result of a lab leak in Wuhan, but it did so with "low confidence," compared with the FBI's "most likely" finding with "moderate confidence."

PHOTO: FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a press conference to announce an international ransomware enforcement action, at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., Jan. 26, 2023.
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a press conference to announce an international ransomware enforcement action, at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., Jan. 26, 2023.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

While the DOE assessment, which the New York Times reported was based on new intelligence, is in line with the FBI's, four other U.S. agencies believe the virus was a result of natural transmission and that the virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, jumped from animals to humans at a wet market. Two other agencies are undecided.

"The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan," Wray said.

PHOTO: This aerial view shows the P4 laboratory on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, May 27, 2020, in China's central Hubei province.
This aerial view shows the P4 laboratory on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, May 27, 2020, in China's central Hubei province.
Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

"Let's step back for a second. You know, the FBI has folks agents, professionals, analysts, virologists, microbiologist, etc, who focus specifically on the dangers of biological threats, which include things like novel viruses like COVID and the concerns that they're in the wrong hands," he said, "some bad guys, a hostile nation state, a terrorist a criminal, the threats that those those could pose.

"So, here you're talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans, and that's precisely what that capability was designed for," he continued. "I should add that, that our work related to this continues. And there are not a whole lot of details I can share that aren't -- aren't classified," he told Baier.

"I will just make the observation that the Chinese government seems to me has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here the work that we're doing the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing. And that's unfortunate for everybody," Wray said.

ABC News' Mary Kekatos contributed to this report.

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