President Donald Trump on Monday downplayed the idea that the Chinese government is peddling misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, saying in a Fox News interview that “they do it and we do it,” seemingly referring to the United States.
Trump was asked during an interview on “Fox & Friends” about a report from The Washington Post that the Chinese, Russian and Iranian governments are waging sophisticated disinformation campaigns aimed at blaming the United States and other Western nations for the extent of the pandemic.
The novel coronavirus originated from Wuhan, China, in November 2019. The Chinese government has been accused of withholding information about the extent of the pandemic and of lying about the number of cases and deaths in the country.
As Beijing has come under intense international pressure, Chinese diplomats and state-controlled media outlets have ramped up a propaganda campaign to shift blame towards the West. (RELATED: Chinese Propaganda Has Infected Daily Mail’s Coronavirus Coverage)
The most glaring example was Chinese foreign ministry official Zhao Lijian claiming that coronavirus originated in a U.S. military lab.
“How are we going to let these countries get away with that, and do we have a counter-strategy like the truth to tell the rest of the world?” Brian Kilmeade, a “Fox & Friends” host, asked Trump of China’s disinformation campaign.
Trump rejected the idea during a rant about The Washington Post and The New York Times, which themselves have peddled Chinese propaganda through paid inserts in their newspapers.
“Number one, you don’t know what they’re doing, and when you read it in The Washington Post, you don’t believe it,” Trump said.
“I believe very little when I see it. I see stories in The Washington Post that are so fake and are so phony. I have stories that are such fake stuff and that’s number one.”
Kilmeade interjected, saying, “But you know China has already done this?”
“They do it and we do it, and we call them different things,” Trump replied.
Trump’s remarks conflict with information from his own State Department.
Lea Gabrielle, who leads the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, told reporters in a conference call on Friday that the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian governments have pushed disinformation related to the pandemic.
“During the crisis, we’ve seen Russian, Chinese, and Iranian state disinformation and propaganda ecosystems all converge around some disinformation themes intended to promote their own agendas,” Gabrielle said.
Trump insisted he has been “very strong” against China, noting that he has referred to coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”
“I wouldn’t say they were thrilled with that statement, where they said our soldiers did it. They said our soldiers did it. I said you mean the Chinese virus? And all of a sudden they call and they say let’s talk nicely,” Trump said.
“Yeah, sure that’s, hey, every country does it,” Trump continued, “but they build it up and we handle that and they probably handle it but countries do that.”
Trump did not identify any disinformation spread by the United States government regarding coronavirus.
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