From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fox News has repeatedly pushed the debunked right-wing media conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus was created in a virology lab in Wuhan, China. In September, Fox gave coverage to a dubious study by Dr. Li-Meng Yan, an exiled Hong Kong virologist who claimed on Tucker Carlson Tonight that the virus was intentionally created and released by the Chinese government as a bioweapon.
Following reporting by The Daily Beast that linked the study’s origins to former Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon, an investigation of the study by CNN has found “shoddy citations, questionable sourcing, and so many scientists who say it's bunk.”
CNN spoke to dozens of scientists and experts who expressed dismay at the lack of “basic obligation to scientific practices” expressed in the paper, as well as the lack of credible sourcing in its citations. In one instance, a citation was pulled directly from an anonymous blog, while another came from a LinkedIn post. CNN also found a citation originating from a disinformation blog run by Steve Bannon.
CNN looked into the study, talking to experts who could evaluate it. Conversely, Fox’s Tucker Carlson hosted Yan to talk about her claims even as he admitted that he had “no way of verifying” if what she was claiming is actually true.
CNN investigation tears apart Yan’s study: “shoddy citations, questionable sourcing, and so many scientists who say it's bunk”
CNN investigation uncovers “shoddy” work of Dr. Li-Meng Yan. Experts told correspondent Drew Griffin that Yan’s work “lacked a basic obligation to scientific practices.” [CNN, The Situation Room, 10/21/20]
Fox News shows on both the “straight news” and “opinion” sides have promoted Yan’s work. Tucker Carlson promoted the study even though he admitted “we have no way of verifying” it.
- Fox News published an exclusive interview with Dr. Li-Meng Yan, framing her as a “whistleblower” accusing Beijing of a “coronavirus cover-up.” [FoxNews.com, 7/10/20]
- Frequent Fox News guest Gordon Chang told Tucker Carlson that Yan was credible and that he believed the virus escaped a lab. [FoxNews.com, 7/10/20]
- Yan appeared on Fox “straight news” program Bill Hemmer Reports to continue to accuse China of covering up information about the virus. [Fox News, Bill Hemmer Reports, 7/13/20]
- In September, after the institute linked to Bannon and Guo published her “study,” Yan told Tucker Carlson that the virus was intentionally created in a lab by the Chinese government and is not a naturally occuring virus. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 9/15/20]
- Yan also claimed that COVID-19 was intentionally released by the Chinese government as a bioweapon. Carlson responded that his program “is not the forum for the details of your research -- I don't have the grounding necessary to ask you the right questions -- this is where you wish for a functioning media." [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 9/15/2020]
- The day after Yan made these claims, Carlson told viewers that he had “no way of verifying” if the claims made by Yan were actually true, but he continued to cite her description of the coronavirus as a “Frankenstein bioweapon.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 9/16/20]
- Lou Dobbs hosted Yan to tout the study. Dobbs saluted Yan for “speaking out forthrightly.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 9/23/20]
- Chang reiterated to Carlson that he believed the virus came from a lab, citing Yan. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 10/5/20]
- Carlson later reiterated the claims before a follow-up interview with Yan. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 10/6/20]