Former White House adviser Steve Bannon gave an interview to G News, a website that pushes fake news and is funded by his billionaire benefactor Guo Wengui. In the interview, Bannon suggests the coronavirus was created by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Bannon has been pushing the debunked theory that the novel COVID-19 virus was engineered and leaked from a research lab near the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the global outbreak, echoing similar fake news and conspiracy theories coming from Guo’s G News.
The World Health Organization has described the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus as an “infodemic” that threatens trust in public health institutions and the global economy. University of Washington professor Carl Bergstrom told Axios that entities aiming to harm China's ruling government have been one of the conduits for the spread of misinformation.
This propaganda campaign does not preclude the legitimacy of other criticism of the authoritarian government’s response. The Chinese government has imposed extreme measures in Wuhan and throughout China to combat the spread of the virus, and it disregarded offers of him from both the CDC and the WHO. The CCP has also been reluctant to share information on the virus, which some say led to a delayed response. Multiple dissidents who have criticized the government's response have been censored and arrested. Dr. Li Wenliang received international attention when he heroically blew the whistle on the virus on social media in the early days of the epidemic. His activism drew the attention of the police in Wuhan, who forced him to sign a letter saying he had engaged in “illegal activity.” He later died from the virus. The very nature of the Chinese regime likely contributed to the spread of the disease to begin with.
The CCP's authoritarian grip on information flow is being challenged by young people within China. The New York Times reported that while the Chinese government is “tapping its old propaganda playbook” to try to create a ”good public opinion environment." Despite this, social media in the country is lit up with criticism of state media.
In addition to spreading misleading propaganda about the coronavirus, Bannon may be violating American campaign finance laws. ProPublica recently reported that Bannon has been flying on Guo’s private airplane to events supporting Republican candidates, which “could run afoul of a campaign finance law that bars foreign money from U.S. elections."