FALSE: Nobel Prize winner Dr Tasuku Honjo says coronavirus is ‘manufactured’


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FALSE: Nobel Prize winner Dr Tasuku Honjo says coronavirus is ‘manufactured’
The Nobel laureate himself denies saying the quote attributed to him

Claim: A Nobel Prize-winning scientist said the coronavirus is “not natural” and that “China manufactured it.”

Facebook posts shared as early as April 25 contained a supposed quote from Dr Tasuku Honjo, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

In the quote, Honjo reasoned that if the virus were natural, “it would have spread in cold places, but died in hot places.”

“I have done 40 years of research on animals and viruses. It is not natural. It is manufactured and the virus is completely artificial,” according to the quote attributed to Honjo. 

Honjo also supposedly said that he has “worked for 4 years in the Wuhan laboratory in China” and believed that all the lab technicians there “have died” because they could not be contacted “for the last 3 months.”

Honjo then said “with 100% confidence” that the virus “is not natural.”

“It did not come from bats. China manufactured it. If what I am saying today is proved false now or even after my death, the government can withdraw my Nobel Prize. China is lying and this truth will one day be revealed to everyone,” he added.

One Facebook post on April 27 that contains the claim and was flagged by Facebook’s Claim Check dashboard has been shared nearly 500 times and has received around 600 likes and 50 comments as of writing.

Rating: FALSE 

The facts: The Nobel laureate did not say the quote attributed to him, and denied it himself. 

Honjo denied the quote attributed to him in a statement released on April 27 through the website of Kyoto University, where he serves as deputy director-general and where he is a distinguished professor at the Institute for Advanced Study.

“In the wake of the pain, economic loss, and unprecedented global suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am greatly saddened that my name and that of Kyoto University have been used to spread false accusations and misinformation,” he said.

He then encouraged everyone to work together in fighting COVID-19. “At this stage, when all of our energies are needed to treat the ill, prevent the further spread of sorrow, and plan for a new beginning, the broadcasting of unsubstantiated claims regarding the origins of the disease is dangerously distracting,” he added.

His statement was also reported by Asian Scientist Magazine on April 28.

Other fact-checking organizations like Vera Files in the Philippines, Alt News in India, and International Business Times in Singapore also debunked this claim.

Honjo won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2018, along with US scientist James Allison “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.”

On the other hand, a different Nobel Prize winner, French virologist Luc Montagnier, actually claimed that the coronavirus was “man-made.” His claim has been debunked by fact-checkers like HealthFeedback.org – Michael Bueza/Rappler.com

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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