A must-see 60 Minutes segment last night demonstrates how Tucker Carlson was part of a disinformation campaign that led to the cancellation of crucial coronavirus research.
The report reveals that NiH funding for an American nonprofit research organization working with the Wuhan Institute of Virology was canceled after Tucker Carlson got together with Rep. Matt Gaetz (who mocked concerns about COVID-19 by wearing a gas mask on the House floor) and falsely smeared the research as funding for the Wuhan lab.
In reality, the funding was for New York-based EcoHealth, whose president, Peter Daszak, has spent his career discovering dangerous viruses in wildlife, especially bats, according to 60 Minutes. Daszak said his organization “focuses on understanding where the pandemics come from, what's the risk of future pandemics and can we get in between this pandemic and the next one and disrupt it and stop it.”
But this vital research has been halted by the TV-Watcher-in Chief.
From the 60 Minutes transcript:
On April 14, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz claimed China's Wuhan Institute had, quote, "birthed a monster." Gaetz is a vigorous defender of the president. He's been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly threatening a witness against Mr. Trump and he led a protest to delay impeachment testimony.
Matt Gaetz on "Tucker Carlson Tonight": The NIH gives this $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they then advertise that they need coronavirus researchers. Following that, coronavirus erupts in Wuhan.
There never was a $3.7 million U.S. grant to the Wuhan lab. But, the falsehood spread like a virus, in the White House, and without verification, in the briefing room.
Matt Gaetz on "Tucker Carlson Tonight": I have called on Secretary Azar to immediately halt this grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They have not been honest and at worst, negligent to the point of many, many deaths throughout the world.
Not long afterward, the funding was canceled.
Peter Daszak: This politicization of science is really damaging. You know, the conspiracy theories out there have essentially closed down communication between scientists in China and scientists in the U.S. We need that communication in an outbreak to learn from them how they control it so we can control it better. It's sad to say, but it will probably cost lives.
Tucker Carlson did not break or singlehandedly promote the disinformation, as Erik Wemple notes:
To be clear: The grant story didn’t break on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Three days earlier, the Mail on Sunday published a story with this finding: “Documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday show the Wuhan Institute of Virology undertook coronavirus experiments on mammals captured more than 1,000 miles away in Yunnan — funded by a $3.7 million grant from the US government.” The White Coat Waste Project, a group that opposes taxpayer funding of experiments on animals, did an “exposé” on the issue.
The funding story wound its way through various media chambers and then onto the hot griddle of one of those Trump-led coronavirus task force briefings. Asked on April 17 why the Obama administration would provide such a grant to China, President Trump showed why he’s such an ideal repository for bogus information: “The Obama administration gave them a grant of $3.7 million? I’ve been hearing about that. And we’ve instructed that if any grants are going to that area — we’re looking at it, literally, about an hour ago, and also early in the morning. We will end that grant very quickly.” Bolding added to highlight the U.S. president’s receptivity to rumor.
But Carlson could have and should have looked into the facts and debunked the lie. There’s simply no excuse for him not to have done so, especially when American lives are at stake and he knows how much faith Donald Trump puts in Fox.
We’ll see if Carlson will have the decency to retract and apologize for putting American lives at risk (don’t hold your breath). Trump has neither stood by his decision nor disputed CBS’ report. Instead, he’s whining and attacking Americans again as the coronavirus death toll now tops 80,000 in the U.S.
.@CBS and their show, @60Minutes, are doing everything within their power, which is far less today than it was in the past, to defend China and the horrible Virus pandemic that was inflicted on the USA and the rest of the World. I guess they want to do business in China!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2020
Watch the full episode below, from CBS News’ May 10, 2020 60 Minutes.