Trump and His Allies Are Pushing an Outrageous Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory

The president’s persecution complex takes center stage amid a global health crisis.

Stefani Reynolds/ZUMA

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

As the world scrambles to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak—which as of Friday has infected at least 83,000 people in 53 countries—President Donald Trump and his allies are busy pushing the conspiratorial narrative that press coverage of the epidemic is aimed at destroying him. The apparent attempt to politicize the global health crisis is likely to fuel investors’ concerns that the Trump administration is woefully underprepared to tackle the rising threat of coronavirus in the United States.

The effort first started Monday when Trump—without evidence—accused the media and Democrats of hyping the coronavirus in order to make the situation look “as bad as possible” and tank the stock market. Since that tweet, Trump’s allies and conservative news personalities have followed suit. Here’s former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on Laura Ingraham’s show Thursday night:

Grabbing the baton the next morning, Pete Hegseth echoed the message on Fox & Friends, though he insisted he was doing so only reluctantly.

“I don’t want to say this, I don’t relish the reality, but you start to feel—watch the Democrats, watch the media—like they’re rooting for coronavirus to spread,” Hegseth said on Friday. “I don’t say that flippantly, but they’re rooting for it to grow, they’re rooting for the problem to get worse, they’re rooting for mysteries, unknown cases, quarantines, towns, for it to become an absolute national crisis for one reason and one reason alone.”

But the conspiracy theory extends well beyond the walls of Fox News. On Friday, during an appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney accused the media of exploiting the virus to hurt Trump.

“The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think, ‘This is going to be what brings down the president.’ That’s what this is all about,” he told the audience. Mulvaney also repeated Trump’s efforts to downplay the threat. “It’s not a death sentence, it’s not the same as the Ebola crisis.”

Mulvaney was one of several senior administration officials—including members of the president’s coronavirus task force—to appear at the conference this week, further fueling questions of whether the Trump administration is taking the threat seriously.

If you’re wondering if the coronavirus could soon warp into a 2020 rallying cry, well, Team Trump already has it covered:

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate