A version of a false conspiracy theory about Ukrainian biolabs that holds that Hunter Biden is connected to those labs was spread by the Russian government, Chinese state media, and Fox News host Tucker Carlson, after supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory and users on far-right message boards pushed the claim.
In late February, a false conspiracy theory spread online -- spurred on by a QAnon-supporting Twitter account known as “Clandestine” -- that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was targeting U.S.-linked labs working to create bioweapons. In reality, the labs are focused on detecting diseases, the U.S. program aims to prevent the development or spread of biological weapons, and the conspiracy theory has its roots in a longstanding Russian disinformation effort. The false claim has spread online among far-right figures and QAnon supporters, and the Russian government has invoked the conspiracy theory to justify the invasion following its spread in parts of the American right.
In the months before the invasion, a separate conspiracy theory circulated online suggesting that Biden was tied to labs involved in potentially nefarious activity around the world, including possibly causing the coronavirus pandemic. Although Ukraine was not the only focus of the conspiracy theory, it was mentioned as one of the countries supposedly involved in these efforts; this claim also followed previous allegations from right-wing media about wrongdoing by Biden in that country.
In particular, a thread from a QAnon-supporting Twitter account called “Blue Canaries” claimed in October that Biden was connected to an effort to manufacture “bio agents under diplomatic cover at ‘secret’ labs” and sell “pandemic insurance and trackers to help countries get ahead of what they are putting out.”
Blue Canaries’ Twitter thread quickly spread among some online conspiracy theorists, including on 8kun’s “/qresearch/” message board, the forum dedicated to “Q,” QAnon’s central figure. It was shared on-air by Infowars host Owen Shroyer, who hyped the thread as “unbelievable,” as well as by Jeffrey Pedersen, a QAnon influencer and show co-host known online as “intheMatrixxx,” who called it “a very interesting thread/dig.”
It was also featured on Pedersen’s MatrixxxGrooove Show (also known as MG Show) just one day after Russia’s invasion began. Pedersen -- who had by that point shared Clandestine’s claim about biolabs as a reason for the invasion -- extensively discussed Blue Canaries’ Twitter thread, linked it to Biden, and suggested “President [Vladimir] Putin and Russia have been worried about this.” Co-host Shannon Townsend added, “This looks like the biggest thing that they would be worried about considering what we’ve experienced in the world for the last two-plus years. Why would he not be afraid that this was going on? And what if we could prove that it was going on all over the country of Ukraine, right next door to him?”
Following that MatrixxxGrooove Show episode on February 25, both Blue Canaries’ Twitter thread and the claim that Biden was tied to Ukrainian biolabs continued to spread via some social media accounts and on far-right message board site 4chan. On February 28, RedPill78’s Zak Paine, a QAnon show host who participated in the Capitol insurrection, discussed Biden “in regards to those biolabs in the Ukraine” and the “ongoing conversation about biological weapons facilities in the country of Ukraine that were set up by the United States government.”
On March 8, Infowars published an article claiming Biden was “connected to US biolabs in Ukraine,” mentioning some of the same organizations cited by the Blue Canaries thread -- repeating claims that the outlet had pushed on-air months earlier. Two days later, far-right blog The Gateway Pundit came out with its own piece claiming Biden’s investment fund had “provided capital for the firms behind the creation of Biolabs in Ukraine,” citing Infowars’ “excellent article with connections between Hunter Biden” and the supposed biolabs. Pedersen shared both articles and wrote, “You heard it on the MG Show first,” adding that “we also beat infowars” on pushing the conspiracy theory.
The Russian government invoked this particular version of the conspiracy theory on March 24, with the Ministry of Defense accusing Biden’s investment firm of having a “close connection” to military contractors responsible for “Pentagon biolaboratories around the world” -- similar to what Blue Canaries had suggested those months prior. Russia’s Defense Ministry also released a diagram of supposed connections between Biden, the Democratic Party, George Soros, various U.S. companies and federal agencies, and foreign governments as evidence for the conspiracy theory, and the claim was subsequently pushed by Russian state media. Chinese state media also pushed the claim, citing the Russian government.
On the evening of March 24, Fox News host Tucker Carlson -- who had previously pushed the broader biolabs conspiracy theory to justify Russia’s invasion -- pointed to a National Pulse article from earlier that day to say that “a private equity firm run by Hunter Biden funded some of the research into pathogens in these biolabs.” The on-screen chyron said, “Report: Hunter Linked To Ukrainian Biolab.” (The MatrixxxGrooove Show’s Townsend had also shared the National Pulse article and claimed that his show found what the article claimed “over a month ago.”)
For his part, Clandestine -- the QAnon supporter who caused the initial biolabs conspiracy theory to spread widely online following the invasion -- joined in hyping the Biden angle and cheered Carlson’s points, calling them “digestible doses for the normies” that are “culminating into a mass realization the likes of which the world has never seen.”